Milwaukee Area Technical College plans to expand the welding facilities at three of its locations in the next three years to extend its training capacity.
The school will receive a three-year, $1.4 million U.S. Department of Labor grant starting in 2013 to help fund the project. It’s part of a larger $14.9 million grant awarded to the Wisconsin Technical College System for expanding and improving advanced manufacturing career pathways.
MATC plans to build a new welding fabrication facility in Mequon and renovate the weld labs on the Oak Creek and West Allis campuses, which will cost about $5 million. MATC will also redevelop its curriculum and hire more faculty as part of the expansion, said Duane Schultz, associate dean at the School of Technical and Applied Sciences.
The Mequon project will begin in March and is expected to be finished by July. That program would enroll students in fall 2013. Oak Creek will begin some modest upgrades to its weld lab in March, and the West Allis weld lab will be expanded starting in summer 2013.
The Oak Creek campus will have its exhaust system updated so 10 more welding booths can be added to increase capacity, said Sue Silverstein, a welding instructor at the Oak Creek campus.
“We just realized that the space we have needs to be reorganized,” Silverstein said. “We’re sort of trying to make each campus specialized.”
Employers in each area have different needs, which is why the welding programs will be focused on different tasks, she said. The West Allis campus will offer an associate degree in robotics and inspection and a new heavy plate welding curriculum, while Mequon will be fabrication focused. Oak Creek will be multifunctional, with a welding diploma program, apprenticeship classes and individual classes.
A welding advisory committee that includes members of the business community will provide input on the curriculum.
“We’ve always had these reports of the shortage of welders—we’ve known that,” she said. “We’ve known that this has been an issue—it was just making it a reality.”