Belmont College draws praise from lt. governor

ST. CLAIRSVILLE Lt. Governor Mary Taylor toured the welding program and lab at Belmont College during a visit to the area Thursday, where school officials and instructors demonstrated the training and equipment used to prepare their students to participate in the oil and gas boom that is reshaping the county.

Taylor noted she had visited other welding facilities to observe the local response to the new industry and the opportunities being created.

“This is particular impressive. This is utilizing space that really wasn’t made for this. The program is growing to meet the demand and the need here, which is fantastic. In addition to the students, businesses are using this facility to train workers, to certify workers, and businesses from out of the state even have contacted these folks at Belmont College to help certify their welders,” she said, adding that the governor’s office has been impressed by the local innovation and growth and development of local companies, as well as new training opportunities offered to allow Ohio workers to gain the skills necessary to prosper.

She said the need for trained workers was a high-priority concern at the governor’s office and a focus of the Workforce Transformation Office, reaching out to colleges and career centers to determine what the demands of the industry would be.

“Places like Belmont College have stepped up and are meeting that new need,” she said.

She added that the governor’s office has focused on facilitating opportunities for training and re-training workers, as well as providing a regulatory process that protected the health and safety of Ohioans and the environment without being overly burdensome to the industry.

The college is buying a new welder and doubling the size of the lab. A grant from Dominion Gas Co. has aided in these developments.

The tour culminated with the demonstration of a new plasma cutting tool purchased using the federal Perkins Grant. The machine, a plasma pipe beveller, is used in manufacturing pipe segments. It carries an advantage in efficiency, since at one point the preparation process had been more than two hours. The beveller allows students to devote more class time to training.

Paul Huffman, instructor, spoke about aspects of the pipeline course. He pointed out that large diameter pipe welding involves working with pipes 10 inches or greater and welding downhill.

“That is one of the techniques we’re teaching in the pipeline class itself,” he said, adding that students can be certified through the courses. They offer a one-year certificate program, a two-year welding degree program, and the workforce development program offers a 40-hour course and an 80-hour course.

“I think the focus is the oil and gas industry and how Belmont College is stepping up to provide state of the art training to meet employer needs and help get people back to work,” said Edward Mower, operations manager, energy institute at Belmont College.

He added that enrollment in welding is at record levels, with 43 new students. Huffman added that about three fourths are pursuing a two-year degree.

“According to state numbers, there’s 14 thousand miles of pipeline that needs to be completed. There’s going to be a need for welders for a long time,” he said.

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