In the past five years, welding instructor Hank Wohle and his team have developed a successful welding program at Western Nevada College’s Fallon campus. Last semester, seven of his students’ efforts yielded eight American Welding Society (AWS) certifications.
AWS certifications are considered the blue ribbon certifications in the United States and can help those who qualify find quality welding jobs across the country. According to Wohle, any big projects that use structural steel — for instance, the Nevada Department of Transportation — use certified welders. Two of the top industries that need welders are mining and energy.
Regarding people with welding certifications, Wohle said, “It’s to their advantage if they want to work at the mines.”
WNC’s welding program uses a curriculum based on state standards that helps students prepare for the AWS certification tests. These tests are administered by Randy Naylor, a certified welding inspector, at the WNC Carson campus, the only AWS certification testing site in Nevada.
Typically, a student tests for one certification at a time. However, one WNC student, Dario Cerasola, tested for two certifications at once. Wohle said it is rare for someone to test for two certifications, especially the more advanced ones, overhead and vertical, at the same time.
“It was a pure-guts move and he succeeded,” Wohle said.
Cerasola explained why he went into welding.
“I went with welding because I do a lot at my farm and wanted to learn the basics and save costs,” he said. “I also did it in case I want to go farther in my welding career. It gives me more options.”
He said he could not have done it without the help of his instructors: Wohle, Don Keele and Jorgen Jeppesen. They accommodated Cerasola, letting him come in extra days to practice. Ceresola plans to continue with the program and work on his pipe certification. He is also taking business management classes at WNC to develop even more skills.
Besides Ceresola, six other students earned certificates during fall semester: Rafe Card, Jonanthony Hallberg, Jorgen Jeppesen, Eddie Morrow, Jon-Michael Rebbetoy and Casey Toombs.
With the welding program’s success, Wohle began work on developing a machinist course on the campus. Two years ago, he invited Troy Taylor, a local machinist, to teach classes. Taylor teaches basic machine shop skills — lathe and mill work.
He would like to introduce more advanced classes, but currently the equipment in WNC’s shop is not sufficient for more advanced work. Taylor already donates much of his own equipment to give students the practice they need.
“Whatever we can do to make it happen, we’ll make it happen,” he said.
Taylor also said that welding and machining go “hand in hand” because creating new parts usually requires some welding.
The program’s success and growth could not come at a better time. AWS reports that the average age of a welder in the country is 55. Fewer than 20 percent are younger than 35. Predictions indicate a shortage of 375,000 welders by 2023. The sobering shortages are similar for machinists as well.
Wohle is encouraged by the progress and hopes for continued growth.
“I envision that the program is going to grow,” Wohle said. “As we get more modern equipment and more students, I expect to see positive results. I know the kids who finish the program can weld.”
For anyone interested in registering for a welding or machining class, call 775-423-7565.