YBOR CITY - Hillsborough Community College is answering a call for more welders needed at the Port of Tampa, in local auto body shops and other areas around the country.
Jack Evans, dean of the Ybor City campus and Training Center for HCC, started its welding program last year and the first seven students are expected to graduate in March.
Meanwhile, he and Lead Welding Instructor Willie Poole are compiling a list of others who would like to become trained welders.
There is a projected shortage of 50,000 welders nationwide over the next five years, said Angela Walters, HCC community relations and marketing manager. "And it's a very nomadic career."
"No matter where you are, if you are a welder, you can find a job," Poole added.
The more people who sign up for the HCC program, the more it will expand, Evans said. If enough people sign up, he will add a daytime program for about 20 students, which typically draws a younger crowd. And he will continue the evening program with 12-15 students, most of whom will have full time jobs during the day. The evening program runs Monday through Thursday from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.
The welding program is one of numerous Work Force Programs offered at HCC, which also offers public safety telecommunications, firefighting, automotive service technology, law enforcement and sheet metal fabrication.
All the programs are based at HCC's Ybor City Training Center, located at 5610 E. Columbus Drive in Tampa.
Evans said the college received a matching grant for $1.6 million from the U.S. Economic Development Administration to expand its automotive programs. After the expansion, HCC took what was left - $500,000 - and matched it to build classroom space and purchase equipment for the welding program.
The program is 1,100 clock hours of course work. The complete program costs $3,892.69, including all lab fees. The tuition is broken down over three semesters.
Poole said the HCC welding students should have no problem finding employment.
New welders can start out at smaller companies welding intricate parts on to a transmission, for example and some day, end up welding girders for bridges. Hourly pay ranges from $14 to $30 or higher, he said. It's all about experience and quality of work.
The next class for the welding program is likely to begin in January, Evans said. To learn more, call the training center at (813) 253-7633.