Located in the heart of Central Texas, Hill College finds itself in a hotbed of fabrication. In addition to job shops and general manufacturing, the area has a demand for trained welders to feed companies specializing in screw conveyor fabrication, rail car service, steel poles for power transmission and distribution, and pipe welding.
The Hill College Welding Department—an American Welding Society SENSE Level 1 school—offers students the skills they need to gain entry level welding jobs in each of these fields through various curriculum paths. This includes a basic arc welding certificate, a semi-automatic certificate, and a special arc welding certificate that combines both of the other curriculum with a capstone class that requires successful completion of the AWS Entry Level Welder Qualification (AWS QC10-95). The school also offers a certificate of technology that leads students into an associate of applied science in welding degree featuring both academic and technical classes.
As with many schools around the country, there is a delicate balance between outfitting welding labs with top-of-the-line equipment and balancing budgets—a fact further highlighted by the fact that the school planned to open a third welding lab at its Meridian campus. Through a series of state and federal grants, Hill College was able to outfit each of its labs with new Miller welding equipment, highlighted by nearly two dozen XMT® 304 CC/CV MIGRunner™ packages that include: an XMT 304 multiprocess power source, a 22A wire feeder, a Bernard® Q-Gun™, an Industrial MIG Kit, drive rolls for both .035 and .045 wire, and a factory-installed running gear/cylinder rack.
Focus on Student Growth Helps Local Industry
“We really focus on maintaining a small class size,” says Brian Bennett, industrial technology coordinator, Hill College. “We don’t double-stack students to a weld station and we have lab assistants who work in the classroom along with the instructor, so there’s always more than one resource for a student to go to.”
This focus on student growth and attention is one of the reasons Hill College’s welding program is held in high regard by local industry. Another is the fact that the school caters to each student’s schedule and needs—there are classes held at various times throughout the day, and students are able to start the program at the beginning of any of the three semesters (Fall, Spring, Summer). This also ensures that Hill College is graduating students into the workforce throughout the year.
“Our program is year round,” says Bennett, “and we offer intro classes year round, so if a student wants to enter the curriculum in June, they can start taking welding classes right away—they don’t have to wait for the fall semester. Our special arc welding certificate takes one year to complete, and with that each student has learned the core welding processes and is ready to go into the workforce.”
As in many parts of the country, despite a slow economic recovery, there is a demand for skilled labor—welders, particularly—as older members of the workforce retire without young skilled labor to backfill. Hill College works side-by-side with local industry to ensure that the students it produces are meeting the demands they have in new employees.
“We have an advisory committee made up of local employers,” says Bennett, “and we meet at least once a year to discuss the direction of our program to make sure that it meets the needs of the local industry.”
Equipping Students for Success
While welding was always offered the school’s Hill County (Hillsboro) and Johnson County (Cleburne) Campuses, the school recently expanded the welding curriculum to its Meridian Campus as well. All together, the school currently has approximately 157 students enrolled in its welding classes.
“The facility in Meridian had limited power input, and there weren’t any funds for new construction,” says Bennett. “That was a big push for the inverters. That’s why we went with the XMT 304. For the price point and the power input, there wasn’t an equivalent.”
As the new Meridian welding lab is limited to a total of 14 welding booths, instructors had to be creative with equipment selection to ensure they’d always have enough machines available to teach each welding process. With a congressional grant received through the office of U.S. Congressman Chet Edwards, Hill College was able to outfit the new facility with:
“Fourteen booths was the most we could put in,” explains Bennett. “We have five Syncrowaves and five XMTs, so that gives us 10 machines that we can teach some form of TIG welding with. We can do AC aluminum on the Syncrowaves while we go with DC TIG on the XMTs. We can use the XMTs along with the Millermatics during our MIG welding classes. The multiprocess machines play a big part in what we are able to do here, because while we did want some machines dedicated specifically to one process, we also needed flexibility to be able to MIG, TIG and Stick in some of the booths without having to stack three machines.”
XMTs Key to Teaching Dual-Shield Flux Cored Welding
The predominant welding processes performed by the companies that make up Hill College’s advisory committee are MIG and Dual-Shield Flux Cored, hence a heavy focus on these processes in the school’s advanced MIG welding classes. While cleanliness and proper weld preparation are stressed in all facets of the curriculum, Dual-Shield Flux Cored is relied upon in rail car repair, for instance, because of its ability to weld on materials that may contain traces of contaminants (oil, paint, rust) and its ability to weld in all positions. It also offers superior penetration and mechanical properties on thicker materials compared to Stick welding or MIG welding with solid wires.
“They’re dealing with thick material,” says Bennett, “it’s usually not clean, and it’s in a production environment, so they need to get work in and out. They go with Dual-Shield Flux Cored to get that penetration and speed.”
In order to ensure its students have the tools to learn these processes, Hill College applied for and won a JET grant (Jobs and Education for Texans) which allowed the college to purchase 22 XMT 304 MIGRunner packages for its Hill County Campus. The MIGRunner packages come outfitted with everything needed to run MIG and Flux Cored wires (including both .035- and .045-in. drive rolls) while still offering the great multiprocess capabilities Hill College requires.
“These things are fully loaded,” says Bennett. “We can Stick weld with them, we can MIG weld with them, and we can scratch TIG with them.”
The school also added two more XMT 304 MIGRunner packages through a grant made possible by the Carl D. Perkins Vocational and Technical Education Act to its Johnson County Campus. Through three different grants, Hill College has been able to overhaul almost its entire welding fleet and outfit a completely new lab, and almost all of that equipment is Blue.
“Much of our local industry is fabrication and production welding,” says Bennett. “I would say Miller is the standard for that. It’s what our students will see when they get out in the industry. We’ve always had very good customer service with our Miller reps, and this equipment really gives us the best bang for our buck.”
“We want to make sure that our students, when they leave here, have the basic skills to help our local industry, as well as anywhere else they might go. And we’re doing that.”