TNCC Opens Precision Welding Center and Announces Subsidized Program for Welders

Published: April 30, 2010

In response to the increasing shortage of skilled welders on the Peninsula, Thomas Nelson Community College is launching a new “Precision Welding Center” and kicking it off with a new, 3-month, hands-on subsidized welding training program leading to national credentials. The first course of 20 students is scheduled for May at TNCC’s newly expanded, state-of-art Welding Center in the Peninsula Workforce Development Center.  Though applicants are required to pay a non-refundable $275 registration fee, the remaining training costs are sponsored by a grant from the U.S. Department of Labor.

“This sponsored training program qualifies participants for high paying technical job opportunities.  The average starting wage for welders is $13.50 an hour and this can rise very quickly to more than $23 with employers such as Advex Corporation, Alcoa Howmet, Liebherr and Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding Newport News,” says John Calver, Director of Advanced Manufacturing at TNCC. Wages increase quickly with experience and certifications. Welders working in the nuclear construction industry and in aero-space related production can earn between $24 and $39 an hour.

“Employers continue to report difficulty finding skilled welders,” says Dr. Deborah Wright, TNCC’s Vice President of Workforce Development. The college has gained several grants and assistance from business to move increasingly into the welding arena.” As more and more skilled technicians retire from the workforce, Peninsula businesses have faced a shortage of trained technicians in fields such as welding, machining, HVAC, electrical, insulating and plumbing,” adds Wright. Projections from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicate that the U.S. will be short 120,000 welders by 2016. “Businesses have approached colleges to move increasingly into the precision trades and advanced technologies, and Thomas Nelson Community College has again responded.” The college has several successful initiatives with Northrop Grumman, NASA, Canon, and others.

The fast-paced welding program enables students to understand the demands of the job. “Eighty percent of the training is hands-on,” says Tom Swankler, a welding instructor at the College. Class hours are from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m., Monday through Thursday and from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Fridays.  The program is based on a very successful pilot at TNCC. “In the pilot, 8 of 10 completers were placed in jobs,” says Calver.

Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding Newport News, the Alcoa Foundation and a $2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Labor provided support for the new TNCC Welding center. “Area businesses use our Center to train current employees and to assess prospective employees,” says Tony Farley, Associate Vice President for TNCC Business and Corporate Training. “It is a valuable community asset.”

To be selected for the training applicants are required to successfully complete assessments that include a drug screening, a background check and WorkKeys. The new TNCC Welding Center is located at the Peninsula Workforce Development Center (PWDC), 600 Butler Farm Road, Hampton. For more information or to complete an application visit or call 757-865-3122. Prospective students may also e-mail questions to

This welding training program is supported wholly or in part by a grant awarded under the Community Based Job Training Grant program as implemented by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration.

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Comment from Tracy Cone Jr. - December 17, 2011 at 8:33 pm

Just finished HAVC certification interested in completeing a plumbing class next.