UTI launches new welding program on NASCAR campus

MOORESVILLE, NC – The need for welders across our country is growing, while industries like manufacturing and automotive manufacturing experience labor shortages.

What do you want to know

  • The country’s industries need welders
  • New program at Mooresville campus helps meet welding needs by training students to become experts in the field
  • One of the Mooresville students is now preparing to start her first welding job in York, PA

From 2021 to 2031, The US Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates the employment of welders, cutters, welders and braziers will increase by 2%, trailing the average for all occupations.

A new program in Mooresville aims to close the gap by training more people in the North Carolina community so they can enter the job market as skilled welders.

In January, Universal Technical Institute expanded its welding technology training program to the NASCAR Technical Institute campus.

The 36-week training program gives students hands-on experience so they know what it’s like to work on a real welding job. Instructors who are experts in their welding trades lead the courses.

The program consists of training students in welding booths and Lincoln Electric’s VRTEX virtual reality simulators, introducing them to the tools found in their potential careers.

Students will follow four processes to help them become welders:

  • Gas arc welding
  • Arc welding under protection
  • cored welding
  • Gas tungsten arc welding

Part of the course includes engineering and pipe fabrication and welding.

Mooresville just celebrated its first class of welding students on Friday October 7th. Taylor Vacanti, 20, is one of 12 graduates.

Vacanti is about to put on his professional welding shoes, having recently taken a job with a major defense contractor in York, Pennsylvania.

NASCAR Tech staff call Vacanti an outstanding student who excelled in the learning environment. But Vacanti says she didn’t always dream of becoming a welder.

After graduating from Mooresville High School, Vacanti says she pursued a career in customer service. But she says those jobs weren’t bringing her enough money.

“I wanted a real job,” Vacanti said.

In January, she enrolled in the on-campus welding technology program at the NASCAR Technical Institute, hoping to one day land a better-paying job.

Vacanti says the program has been both enriching and rewarding.

“Many new students don’t know anything about [welding]“said Vacanti. “I didn’t know what welding was or how to do welding. This [program] was really helpful to me. It’s a lot of hard work.

The need for welders like Vacanti in the state and across the country numbers in the thousands, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The organization’s most recent data indicates there are 428,000 people employed in the welding trades, but that is not enough.

BLS is projecting approximately 47,600 welder positions each year, on average, until 2031. They say that many of the vacancies are due to people retiring or workers leaving for another profession.

The American Welding Society echoes these shortage concerns. The organization endorses workforce data which forecasts nearly 150,000 people in the welding profession are approaching retirement, which amplifies the need for more workers to fill these positions.

UTI Welding Technology program instructors say the goal is to get qualified welders in those specific industries that are experiencing shortages.

Martin Ngigi is a welding instructor at NASCAR Tech.

Before taking on this role, he was a traveling welder for about 12 years, working in places like California, Florida, New Jersey and South Carolina.

Ngigi says the continued shortage of welders is concerning.

“A lot of people haven’t been in this industry. Many have worked in banking and [careers] like computer programming,” Ngigi said. “Industries like this [welding] were lacking, but now we have people coming back to this industry.

Ngig says the UTI Welding Technology program is essential for teaching students the ins and outs of welding, so they are knowledgeable about the demands of the job.

“Welding is not just about putting two parts together and welding them together,” Ngigi said. “It involves a lot of stuff and preparation, there’s the fabrication and the actual welding. All the instructors went to the field. It’s not new to them. These students get first hand what they should expect when they go out. It’s not easy, it’s not for everyone.

For students like Vacanti looking for a steady income, Ngigi says the salary for welding is good.

“There’s money to be made, especially for traveling welders,” Vacanti said.

In May 2021, the median annual salary for welders, cutters, brazers and braziers was $47,010, according to the BLS.

Although Vacanti is excited about the welding salary, she says the big payday is getting into a career she worked hard for.

“Skys the limit,” Vacanti said.

Graduates of NASCAR Tech’s welding program will earn a diploma. The campus says the degree could help students stand out when looking for jobs by showing that they have received extensive training to work in the welding field.

NASCAR Tech says training in the welder trade will prepare students to enter many fields, including:

  • Automotive maintenance and production
  • Aerospace
  • Manufacturing
  • Repair and construction of railways
  • Manufacture of agricultural machinery
  • Construction and infrastructure

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