Maritime Welding Program Trains Students on the Water
For students in the Maritime Welding Program at CDA Technical Institute in Jacksonville, Florida, the welding classroom is a 160-foot barge on the Trout River, just a few miles from the Atlantic Ocean. The CDA students complete more traditional training in a welding classroom, but eventually progress to training on the barge, giving them a real-world taste of the environment faced by maritime welders, both offshore and in shipyards.
In addition to building skills in Stick, MIG, TIG and Flux-Cored welding, the students get experience in ship fitting, thermal cutting, crane operations, rigging, confined space entry and offshore survival. Upon graduation, the students are American Welding Society (AWS) certified and also Level I and Level II certified by the National Center for Construction, Education and Research (NCCER). They also can earn certifications in subjects such as hazardous material handling and cleanup, first aid, CPR and defibrillator use.
“We go above and beyond traditional welding in a booth. We’re training in a maritime environment,” says Drew Duffy, a recruiter and graduate services assistant for the program. “Our students have practical experience in maintaining and repairing functional welding and maritime equipment and are challenged by various conditions of metals, all welding positions and environmental hazards.”
CDA’s Maritime Welding Program was launched about six years ago, at the request of industry leaders and employers in the area. The school was known for its diving program (CDA used to stand for Commercial Diving Academy), and industry leaders in the area asked the school to expand its programs.
“The industry knew we had maritime training facilities, knew our divers did some welding,” Duffy says. “Some shipyards and major manufacturers came to us and said 'if you start a welding program and teach them some of the dry skills that you’re teaching divers, like rigging, first aid, CPR, and do real-world conditions training and teach them a lot of welding, you’ll have a program that’s second-to-none.'”
The program teaches welding processes commonly used in maritime, but the skills that graduates learn can also be applied in other welding industry segments, such as construction, fabrication, rail and trucking, Duffy says. CDA uses a variety of welding machine brands and models, including a Trailblazer® 325 and Big Blue® 400 Pro welder/generators from Miller.
Students progress through the four-month program in a linear fashion, with a competency-based weld test and a written competency exam required at the end of each module in order to move on to the next portion of training. The program is full-time, so the students are training and learning skills Monday through Friday. The program has about 30 to 50 students at any given time, with an employment placement rate of more than 90 percent.
“We put a lot of focus on welding in a real-world environment,” Duffy says. “That’s what sets us apart.”