Alberta Pipe Trades College Opens New $6 Million Facility
A new $6 million, 24-booth welding facility at Alberta Pipe Trades College in Edmonton is the result of program demand and the desire to turn out excellent welding operators trained with top-notch facilities and equipment. The new 10,000 square-foot, state-of-the-art welding center is quite an improvement from the portable trailers where the school previously conducted welding training. The trailers could only house eight students at a time, and that setup wasn’t really designed to accommodate full-time training.
A new $6 million, 24-booth welding facility at Alberta Pipe Trades College in Edmonton is the result of program demand and the desire to turn out excellent welding operators trained with top-notch facilities and equipment.
The new 10,000 square-foot, state-of-the-art welding center is quite an improvement from the portable trailers where the school previously conducted welding training. The trailers could only house eight students at a time, and that setup wasn’t really designed to accommodate full-time training.
“You’d have to be here to visualize just how big of a difference this new building makes. If you’re familiar with trailer or cab-trailer situations, that’s the kind of conditions the students were working in,” says Dan MacKinnon, assistant program head at the school. “Now they’re working in a full-fledged setup, with proper ventilation and all this great equipment.”
The welding facility opened for classes at the end of August, and a grand opening celebration was held in October.
“There was a waiting list for students wanting to come here,” MacKinnon says. “So the demand definitely had a huge influence.”
Supporting training for critical pipe welding industry of Canada
Alberta Pipe Trades College opened in 2009. The school offers courses to train welders, plumbers, gasfitters, pipefitters, steamfitters and other workers in related trades. The school provides trade certificate training and apprenticeship training programs (mostly three years in length) and post-journeyman training in association with the UA Local 488.
The new welding facility was paid for thanks to the education fund that is supported by the more than 11,000 members of UA Local 488.
“I’m trying to make sure that our school is capable of meeting any of the demands that are out there in the industry,” MacKinnon says. “We teach the apprenticeships, but the industry needs flexibility for us to be able to just jump to the pump and put on courses for them if they need it.”
“I think that teamwork is a key component of this college,” says Shawn Friedenberger, communications director for the UA Local 488 and Alberta Pipe Trades College.
With small class sizes and one-on-one time available with the four welding instructors, the school emphasizes meeting rigorous training standards. In addition to the new 24-booth welding facility, the school also has a welding test center with 48 booths. Welding operators in Alberta must requalify every two years.
“Any student that’s registered as a welder here at school, they can go over and practice in a supervised welding center to further improve their skills,” MacKinnon says. “Say we had to train a couple hundred welders over a period of four months — we could do it.”
Preparing students for careers
The expansive new welding facility — and the new welding equipment from Miller Electric Mfg. Co. outfitting the school’s welding center — helps prepare students for the variety of jobs and requirements they will encounter in pipe trade careers.
Total training space at the Alberta Pipe Trades College, including the new welding center, is about 60,000 square feet.
With 24 multiprocess booths in the school welding lab, another 48 booths in the welding test center, 24 multiprocess booths in the steamfitters lab and additional machines in a pipe training facility, the school has close to 100 welding machines — nearly all Miller. The equipment includes PipeWorx 400 welding systems, Dynasty® 280 TIG machines, SuitCase® X-TREME™ wire feeders, XMT® 350 multiprocess machines, a SubArc Digital machine and two LiveArc™ Welding Performance Management Systems for training.
With simplified ease of use and superior arc performance, students are thrilled to work with the new machines.
“We have all the toys I’d love to have at home,” MacKinnon says. “The students are just ecstatic about the facility. They’ve never welded with anything that comes close to what these machines do. They’re smooth, the arc is smooth, they’re easy to set. They work the way a welding machine should work.”
MacKinnon had used and worked with Miller in his previous experiences in welding education and in working in the fabrication industry, which played a role in why he chose the machines for the new center.
“They’re the most up-to-date machines out there at this moment and they are specialized for pipe welding, so they fit well in the pipe trades industry,” MacKinnon says. “I chose the PipeWorx specifically for our pipe welding needs and chose the Dynasty for all our TIG welding needs. Basically our labs are set up so there isn’t any type of material that we can’t weld here at the school. It’s all about diversification and the ability to diversify on a moment’s notice.”
Meeting industry demands
The investment is a sign that the school and the UA Local 488 want to meet industry needs — now and in the future. The school is prepared to expand even more when the demand comes.
“They expect excellence, in terms of not only the instructors but the equipment,” Friedenberger says. “We want to be the best. We have a vision here of becoming something extraordinary.”