GODFREY – Lewis and Clark Community College’s new Weber Workforce Center will officially open to students when fall classes begin Aug. 20.
“It is awe-inspiring to see where we were when we started the Welding Technology program in 2012, to where we are now, getting ready to start the new semester in our new facility,” said Welding Technology Coordinator Travis Jumper.
The college broke ground on the 16,000 square-foot state-of-the-art facility in 2016 and held its first event in the building this past spring when it welcomed the American Welding Society for the St. Louis Section’s annual Student Night.
The $4.5 million project was made possible in large part by a nearly $3.25 million gift from the estate of local resident Ed Weber and contributions from local industry, such as HWRT Oil Co. and Cope Plastics, Inc., said L&C President Dale Chapman, bringing the donor-supported total to $3.75 million through the L&C Foundation.
“This is the largest gift to date received by the college’s Foundation, and we are so thankful for Mr. Weber’s vision to provide the region’s future generations with the latest technology and safest practices,” Chapman said.
The Weber Workforce Center, featuring a Miller shop equipped with 30 high-efficiency welding stations, doubles the capacity of the college’s Welding program, which has grown as the demand for skilled welders has continued to increase.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job outlook for welders is promising – with the need expected to increase by 26 percent by 2020 as experienced professionals transition into retirement.
“Our program, which plans to integrate augmented reality into the curriculum in the near future, gives student welders the hands-on experience they need to be able to step into a job right after graduation,” Jumper said.
Through dual credit at 14 district high schools, students can get an early start on their welding degree or certificate – up to 6 credit hours, or two classes – before they even set foot on L&C’s campus.
A three-way partnership with Miller and Cee Kay Supply enhances the program by allowing the high schools the first option to purchase used equipment as the college cycles new equipment in.
“Partnering with L&C allows Cee Kay Supply to assist in making sure the students are learning to weld with the newest technology,” said Timm Evans, Vice President of Sales at Cee Kay. “A lot of times the funds are not available for schools to have the latest equipment in welding. The job market for welders is at an all-time high, but if they are learning on 10-year-old equipment it does not help in securing future employment. We at Cee Kay Supply say ‘Together We Build’ and partnering with L&C and Miller continues this path.”
In addition to the shop area, the Weber Workforce Center houses three classrooms, including one with 20 computer stations; three offices, two of which have views into the lab; restrooms equipped with showers; an Oxy-fuel cutting/grinding room and a clean testing room.
It’s also incredibly efficient.
Welding inverter technology uses 1/5 of the power a normal shop would, about 150-175 amps total per day. The advanced HEPA air filtration system, a higher grade than many hospitals use – filters fumes out of the shop and circulates clean air back in.
Jumper said the facility aims to become one of the only American Welding Society certified testing facilities in the region. The nearest facility is currently in Collinsville, followed by Chicago.
In line with the college’s sustainability focus, the building was designed for LEED silver certification. The four wind turbines atop the building are capable of generating 4kw/day and will be used for educational purposes in the college’s Architectural Technology program.
LED smart lighting dims and brightens the lights, depending on the availability of natural light coming through the windows. Additionally, pervious pavers in the roadway and parking lot, along with the bioswale in the front of the building, are designed for groundwater filtration.
“One of the exciting features of this building from a sustainability perspective is that we’ve actually increased the square footage of permeable surfaces at the site,” said L&C Director of Sustainability Nate Keener. “Rain used to fall on an asphalt parking lot as it rushed into our creeks, causing erosion. Now much more rain will infiltrate through a large bioswale and a butterfly garden.”
The college envisions expanding the Weber Workforce Center in the future as manufacturing and industrial workforce program demands increase and funding becomes available.
Currently, the college offers 34 workforce programs, including flagships such as Welding Technology, Automotive Technology and Process Operations Technology.
Additionally, the college provides ongoing workforce education and contractor safety training to district employers through its Workforce Education, Solutions & Safety Training (WESST) division, which operates out of the Bethalto Training Center located at 1136 E. Airline Dr., near the Bethalto Airport.
To learn more about L&C’s academic and career programming, visit www.lc.edu/credit-programs/.
To learn more about WESST’s offerings, visit www.lc.edu/workforce_training.