A partnership to train welders with modern technology got a ceremonial start today when Hays Area Chamber of Commerce Ambassadors cut a ribbon opening the new Kansas Institute of Welding, a partnership between North Central Kansas Technical College and Fort Hays State University.
Class actually began Aug. 25, but the celebration of the partnership was today. The seven students in this first class, who were welding in the lab in Davis Hall on the FHSU campus as the audience gathered, are part of a partnership known as the Gateway Program, announced in March 2007 by Dr. Edward H. Hammond, FHSU president, and Dr. Clark Coco, president of NCKTC, Beloit.
"This is a perfect illustration of the intent of the Gateway Program," said Hammond today. "This is a partnership that combines resources to produce skilled, certified welders needed by the Kansas economy and the region.
"It is also a great opportunity to show how this partnership can work, not only in welding but in many other industrial fields that need trained, certified professionals ready to work when they complete the program. It also provides the opportunity to the students to advance their education in areas such as teaching and our technical leadership. We have those programs readily available if they choose to go in that direction, and their NCKTC credits are transferrable."
"If we are to meet the training needs of business and industry within the state of Kansas," said Coco, "it is my belief that all post-secondary institutions need to look for partnerships and sharing of resources just as we have here with Fort Hays State University."
The institute resulted when the two institutions matched resources. NCKTC has a welding program in Beloit but not at its Hays campus. FHSU, on the other hand, has a limited welding program designed to familiarize future teachers with the basics but that does not produce certified welders needed by Kansas industry.
Coco recounted the beginning. "The vision of the establishment of this program on the Fort Hays State campus came about after Don Benjamin, dean of our Hays campus, and I had a luncheon meeting with President Hammond in December 2007. Understanding that at the present time the NCKTC Hays campus did not have the classroom space available, President Hammond asked us to accompany him to the Fort Hays campus, showed us a classroom, and asked, 'Would a room such as this work for your expansion and training goals?' "
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Don Benjamin, dean of NCKTC's Hays campus expressed his appreciation for the partnership and said he believes this agreement will benefit both institutions.
"First and foremost," he said, "the benefactors of this partnership are the students. These students may not have otherwise had the opportunity to attend technical training on another campus. Secondly, area industries will benefit as there will be highly skilled trained welders for their future employment needs. I believe the Kansas Institute of Welding will have a positive and lasting economic impact for western Kansas.
"President Hammond and Dr. Fred Ruda have been outstanding to work with in developing this partnership. NCKTC appreciates their vision and are proud to be a partner that provides career opportunities for students and provides a highly skill trained workforce."
"This program is a win-win situation for all," said Ruda, chair of FHSU's Department of Technology Studies. He said he believes this can be just a beginning for future partnerships, citing two new programs FHSU is developing -- one in construction management and another in power and energy -- with input from business and industry and from NCKTC. He also noted that students will have other opportunities available.
"Students who participate in these types of programs often want to continue their educations after the certificate or A.A.S. degree," said Ruda. "By having this program on our campus, they will be exposed to our four-year degree program and will have information on our technology leadership B.S. degree that was established several years ago. This program provides students who have an A.A.S. degree a pathway to be able to complete their B.S. in two years, and they are able to complete the degree without having to come to campus as it is available online."
The welding students study their craft in a classroom and a lab in FHSU's Davis Hall. NCKTC has equipped it with eight new Lincoln Invertec V350-PRO advanced process welding machines, costing roughly $6,000 each. With this equipment, they can become skilled at all the modern welding processes, gas metal, gas tungsten and shielded metal arc welding and flux core welding, and carbon arc and plasma cutting. They will also learn the old standard of oxy acetylene.
They will also work with welding modern materials -- high-strength and special purpose steels, stainless steel, aluminum, exotic metals such as titanium, and others.
The students will use the lab five days a week and take their general education classes during the two two-hour periods each week when the FHSU welding class meets.