Calhoun Community College wins grant for welding, manufacturing workforce work

Calhoun was awarded $198,000 to purchase training equipment to strengthen robotic welding programs on its Decatur and Huntsville campuses.

Posted: Mar 3, 2021 5:46 PM

Calhoun Community College issued this news release:

Calhoun Community College was selected as one of five grant winners by the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) and the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) for their Advanced Welding Workforce Initiative (AWWI), which is a partnership to invest $1 million in education and training for advanced technical workers in Appalachia.

Projects were selected based upon their anticipated impact on the Region’s advanced welding and manufacturing workforce, particularly their capacity to meet growing demand across a number of industries.

Awards were also made on the basis of connecting proposals with pressing regional needs, including expanding offerings into economically distressed areas, targeting designated Opportunity Zones and recruiting workers in long-term recovery from substance use disorder.

“We are so proud of the hard work and time that was put in to making this announcement possible,” commented Calhoun Interim President, Dr. Joe Burke. “Our goal at the College is to equip our students with the knowledge and hands-on experience employers seek in their future workforce,” added Burke.

Calhoun was awarded $198,000 to purchase training equipment to strengthen robotic welding programs on its Decatur and Huntsville campuses. The addition of robotic welding equipment and subsequent courses will equip students with much-needed skills sets, while incumbent workers will be able to obtain a Certificate in Robotic Welding to advance their careers. The robotic welding equipment will support a broader range of courses than currently offered in both the Welding Technologies and the Aerospace Welding programs, with the potential to create a new short-term certificate. The programs will train 110 degree-seeking students during the project period.

“This funding will not only help support the goal of expanding our Robotics Welding Program,” commented John Holley, Calhoun Dean of Technologies. “But it will help us to also increase our training as we purchase more equipment to train students for the workforce,” added Holley.

AWWI’s funding is jointly provided by ARC and DOE’s Office of Fossil Energy High Performance Materials program to prepare a new generation of welders to manufacture and service high-temperature alloy components in advanced coal and natural gas-fueled electric generating stations. Such plants operate at significantly higher temperatures and pressures, which increases efficiency and lowers emissions of carbon dioxide but requires the use of superalloys that can withstand the harsh conditions. AWWI awardees put forth projects that develop a workforce with the high-tech welding skills needed to use advanced materials to ensure the successful operation of low and near-zero emission plants powered by Appalachia’s abundant reserves of coal and gas.

Workers with similar skills are needed in the automotive, aerospace, aviation and petrochemical industries. AWWI is part of a series of joint efforts between ARC and DOE to help Appalachia fully harness the economic and workforce potential of these sectors. Other collaborations between the agencies include the Appalachian Energy and Petrochemical Renaissance: An Examination of Economic Progress and Opportunity, a DOE report – which included ARC research – that found petrochemical manufacturing currently in development in Appalachia is projected to attract between $16 billion and $20 billion in capital investment, and create more than 9,800 jobs directly and indirectly in Appalachia by 2025.

About the Appalachian Regional Commission The Appalachian Regional Commission ( is an economic development agency of the federal government and 13 state governments focusing on 420 counties across the Appalachian Region. ARC’s mission is to innovate, partner, and invest to build community capacity and strengthen economic growth in Appalachia to help the Region achieve socioeconomic parity with the nation.

About the US Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Lab (NETL) NETL ( is a U.S. Department of Energy national laboratory that produces technological solutions for America’s energy challenges. From developing creative innovations and efficient energy systems that make coal more competitive, to advancing technologies that enhance oil and natural gas extraction and transmission processes, NETL research is providing breakthroughs and discoveries that support domestic energy initiatives, stimulate a growing economy, and improve the health, safety and security of all Americans. Highly skilled men and women at NETL’s sites in Albany, Oregon; Anchorage, Alaska; Houston, Texas; Morgantown, West Virginia; and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania conduct a broad range of research activities that support DOE’s mission to advance the national, economic and energy security of the United States.

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