May 9, 2023, 12 p.m.
Workforce Careers Center, Room W1169
Nancy Sweet, Aidan Tierney, Jon Brandenburg
Members in Attendance
David Lett (Litchfield CUSD #12), Scott Eddings (UA Local 137), Devin Harper (ILMO), James (CNH), John Wrage (Caterpillar), Bryan Davis (Lincoln Electric)
LLCC: Josh Collins, Candace Silas, Sierra Peterson, Brandon Lewis, Barbara Messner
- Welcome and introductions
- Discussion of curriculum changes
- Increasing program value for employers
- Fall career expo
1. Welcome and introductions
Aidan opened the meeting by introducing himself. Everyone went around the room introducing themselves and telling where they are employed.
2. Discussion of curriculum changes
Jon gave a PowerPoint presentation - Overhaul of Curriculum to Match Industry Needs. He discussed the upcoming changes to the WEL curriculum and the reasoning behind the changes. He gave an overview of the current coursework which includes a capstone course and industry welding tests. Students are able to choose which tests they take depending on where they want to go to work. One of the issues with the current curriculum is that instructors are losing instruction time because many students have no background in welding and need time to learn lab safety. Therefore, a Fabrication Shop Basics course is being created in which lab safety is taught. OSHA 10, CPR and employability skills will also be added to the program. In order to make room for this, WEL 108 Pipe Welding will be removed. The long-term plan is to add a certification for pipe welding which will be a semester long and will be completed after the Advanced-Level Welding Certificate of Achievement. Aidan reiterated that students have difficulty learning safety, and that this course change will produce a huge return on the skills that students will be able to master once they have the basic safety foundations.
3. Increasing program value for employers
Nancy requested employer feedback. Scott agreed that the soft skills are good to incorporate. He would like to see employees that are able to fit pipe. He agreed that fabrication is important but stated there is need for pipe welders right now. Nancy will reach out to Scott and the PAC when the pipe welding certificate is created. John also agreed that soft skills are needed. Employees need to know that they are expected to show up on time. GMAW and FCAW and MIG are needed. His employees don’t need stick welding skills. James commented that they have high voltage welding machines and that he needs employees who can focus on consistency and speed. LLCC WEL students were at CNH Industries yesterday. They gave the students a weld test like they would give to potential employees. Our students were listening and attentive. Aidan commented that the students were nervous but really enjoyed the experience. Everyone agreed that it was an experience they would like to repeat.
Nancy explained that LLCC runs a day cohort (nine-month program) and a night cohort (year long program). We have 16 welding booths on the main campus and 20 booths in the Taylorville lab. She mentioned that we may shift the focus in Taylorville to pipe welding; a benefit is that it’s closer to Decatur where there are more pipe welding employment opportunities. She offered the employers a tour of our lab facility and shared that we have a five-year plan to improve the facility. Nancy also stressed that we want to have a partnership with industry—to meet their needs, to train students that meet their needs, and encouraged employer feedback to know how we can make our program better. Currently we teach basic knowledge, stick and pipe. We do not have space at this time for a plasma cutter or robotic welder. When we get facility issues worked out these and other machinery can be added. We believe that students have to have the fundamentals/basics down first and then they can expand to specializations. We have looked at curriculum models of some of the biggest schools in the country, and we are incorporating those insights into our program.
Aidan asked the employers to share the three main positions that they are hiring for. John and James are both looking for welders, machinists, and assembly positions. Scott is looking for plumbers, welders and pipe fitters. Devin could use 30 welders in Illinois right now as well as 2700 more in Indiana. James commented that he could employ 45 welders and John could employ 250 welders. Employers commented that no one wants to work. Employees that do show up are often late. Most employers will train the right people, but they need employees who have soft skills. The issue with many students/employees is that they think should make $100,00 a year with no effort. Everyone agreed that employees have to start at the bottom and learn and then work their way up. Jon commented that he’s hoping to change the culture of the program and feels like there has already been success/improvement. We are trying to instill these soft skills that employers want; the Employability Skills class will help with this as well. It will come near the end of the program and will cover resume and cover letter writing, mock interviews, instruction on writing professional emails, phone and texting etiquette, ethics, communication, and leadership. Jon iterated that soft skills are embedded in all of the WEL classes. Students learn to work around other people which includes safety skills. It is good for our students to hear these same things from our employer partners because students really listen to them.
John said that he would like to see heavier MIG and cobot training. Aidan asked if we need to teach students how to understand a WPS or SOP. Employers agreed that it would be helpful to learn WPS at the beginning and then move to SOP. Most lines are digital and record how long it takes to make a weld along with efficiency and quality.
Employers agreed we need to keep teaching welding and believe that there will be more orbital and robotic welding (chip plants, pharmaceuticals) and that production will be shifting. Lincoln Electric will be bringing some production back from overseas. John commented that business is cyclical and is concerned about the age gap in employees. Out of 350 welders, ¼ of them have 30 years of experience then most of the rest have less than 5 years of experience. A huge experience loss is coming. There will be a big retirement and the knowledge is going with it. Scott commented that the younger employees don’t want to be managers; they want to do their work and go home; they don’t want the added stress of management. Aidan may incorporate the idea of choosing a foreman for each class in order to work on leadership skills. The employers felt that this would help instill leadership skills along with teaching students how to have tough conversations and how to take constructive criticism as well.
James added that welding in a circular pattern is needed along with square tube to square tube. John emphasized that quality inspections are needed and that they are key (we use AWS D1.1 and the AWS SENSE program). Brandon asked if any of the PAC members need repairers. The response was that maintenance mechanics are in high need. Nancy commented that we may reach out to this group for help/feedback for our Industrial Maintenance Program.
4. Fall career expo
The PAC was invited to the LLCC fall Career Expo and was given a flyer about it.
At conclusion of meeting
As the meeting concluded, Jon, Nancy and Aidan reemphasized open communication at any time. Devin asked how the PAC can help LLCC. Aidan answered that as we upgrade the lab we will need help with liquid tanks and getting everything plumbed up. Scott commented that we also should be focusing on in-position welds; Aidan said that we use triangle weld stands that assist with this.
The PAC was thanked again for their time and participation. Those who desired, toured the lab.