Skilled to Work: Calhoun opens new aerospace welding lab at Huntsville campus

Calhoun decided to move the program from the Decatur campus to Huntsville starting this fall semester.

Posted: Aug 29, 2019 2:37 PM
Updated: Aug 29, 2019 7:06 PM

Imagine someone at a welding table. The images that come to mind may be loud, crackling as sparks fly from a piece of steel and a stick weld.

At Calhoun Community College’s new aerospace welding lab, there is some of that going on for newer students, but more advanced welders in the course will be working with a multitude of metals and different welding techniques, like gas tungsten arc or TIG welding.

According to Calhoun Community College, "New (Aerospace Engineering and Operations Technicians) start around $33,968. Normal pay is $56,989 per year. Highly experienced workers can earn up to $91,270."

Aerospace welding student McCall Atchison practices a gas tungsten arc or TIG weld at Calhoun Community College's new aerospace welding lab. Atchison is also a dual-enrollment student. Aerospace welding student McCall Atchison practices a gas tungsten arc or TIG weld at Calhoun Community College's new aerospace welding lab. Atchison is also a dual-enrollment student.

“[It’s] more technical, more precise welding. It's more controlled area, a lot cleaner,” said student Matthew Elmore.

Elmore is one of the first students to experience Calhouns’ new lab, which opened in full for this fall semester. He started his career with more traditional welding, but decided to switch tracks.

"After getting several jobs and not exactly liking where I was at, I decided to swap and go with the aerospace degree. And since then, it has been way, way more helpful to me as an individual and what I'm looking forward to in my life,” said Elmore.

Welding Instructor Matthew Jones recently became the head of the program. The aerospace technology associates degree has been around for a while, but moving from the Decatur campus to the one in Huntsville is something that Jones said will allow them to step up their game.

“Most of our advisory board and our industry leaders are in this location and it’s easier to communicate and get our students in an environment that is going to be similar to what they do,” said Jones.

The program is aimed at not only adults, young and old, but also at dual-enrollment high school students as well.

“It's been good. It's a lot of hard work, it takes a lot of trial and error, a lot of long nights, but you get out what you put in,” said student McCall Atchison.

Elmore added that with a wife and a child here in Huntsville, having a path to a fulfilling career that doesn’t require a lot of moving is a huge plus for him.

“You also can get into a company here where you always know where you’re going to be. You don’t have to roam around, trying to find somewhere to weld pipe or maybe construction sites move, builds get completed, things like that,” said Elmore.

Plus the degree includes more than just specialty welding.

“A student may choose to be a welding concentration in aerospace technology, but they’ll also get to learn things such as electrical wire assembly, they’ll be doing mechanical assembly where they’ll be doing some riveting. There’s surface prep and coatings, where they get to do some painting,” said Jones.

“So there’s a lot of different facets they’ll learn while they focus on welding that they can always fall back on.”

To learn more about the program, click here.

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