New Model for Welder Training: Rochester Distributorship Opens Dedicated 16-Cell Training Center
Mahany Welding Supply Co. in Rochester, NY, opened the Rochester Arc & Flame Center (RocAFC), a 5,000 sq. ft. training center for welding, glass blowing and blacksmithing instruction in January of 2012. The center offers professional and recreational classes, providing training for professional tradesmen and the general public.
Mike Krupnicki has been in the welding distribution business for 30 years. He’s the second generation of family to operate Mahany. The distributor has been selling and maintaining Miller welding equipment since 1963. Mahany provides the full line-up of ITW Welding Companies guns, wire and welding accessories and products from Hobart Brothers, Bernard, Tregaskiss, Smith, Weldcraft and Miller.
Eleven years ago Krupnicki realized he had all the tools to provide much needed welding training through clinics, night courses, vocational classes and certification programs. He started with four welding cells inside his distribution shop in Rochester. The four cells grew to twelve. Before long the students had taken over a good portion of the Mahany building.
“We trained over 3,000 students in our first nine years,” says Krupnicki, president of Mahany Welding and executive director of RocAFC. “It kept growing and growing and then one day I walked out into the shop and realized the students had taken over the place—I needed a bigger training facility.”
The great success of the program at Mahany motivated Krupnicki to grow the training model into a separate entity. The construction began in 2011 and in January he opened the Rochester Arc & Flame Center. A stand-alone facility attached to the distributorship is dedicated to education and training to fill an industry need for more bodies.
“The welder shortage is no joke,” said Krupnicki. “There is a desperate need for welders at all levels of industry. One of our career training programs will turn a student into a proficient multi-process welder in 20-weeks.”
His current career-training program has 16 students and even before graduation twelve have been offered jobs. The students have access to the latest products from Miller including MIG (GMAW), TIG (GTAW), Stick (SMAW) welders and plasma cutters. The center includes 16 welding cells complete with 16 Millermatic® 211s, 16 Dynasty® 200 DXs, and a host of Millermatic 252 and 350P’s for some applications.
“Most of the welding in the Rochester area is focused on sheet metal and light industrial welding,” said Krupnicki. “We cater to our local industrial needs and the Millermatic and Dynasty products are perfect for the type of welding we need to teach.”
But it’s not a new welding system that has Krupnicki the most excited in his state-of-the-art-lab. He had been set to buy a used fume management system to install in the cells. But one evening last fall he’d read an article about the Miller FILTAIR® systems. The next day he made a call.
“Mike called and asked about the FILTAIR systems,” said Lou Thomas, account manager-northeast, Bernard, Tregaskiss & Miller FILTAIR Group ITW Welding Companies. “He wanted to know more about the industry’s only fume management system designed specifically for welding environments – it didn’t take long before he’d shelved the idea about a used system.”
“I knew if Miller made the FILTAIR that it would be first class,” said Krupnicki. “I have not been disappointed.”
The Rochester Arc & Flame Center sports a top of the line FILTAIR Industrial Centralized System. The installed FILTAIR 12000 utilizes surface loading FilTek™ XL technology to filter 95 percent of weld fume particles and to provide more efficient airflow.
"My first impression was wow—16 arms all extracting all at once while the students are stick welding and I don’t smell any fumes," Krupnicki said. “My second thought was how quiet the system was working. I could actually carry on a conversation in the lab.”
The FILTAIR Centralized Systems are specifically designed for multi-cell applications and are custom engineered for each work environment. The system is 65 percent smaller than comparable systems, an important factor for Krupnicki.
“I’ve had several competitive systems over the years and the story has always been the same. Big, expensive, loud and to be quite honest, inadequate,” said Krupnicki. “The FILTAIR is quite the opposite. Not only is it doing the job it supposed to do, I have little maintenance, more room and I was surprised by how affordable the unit was.”
“Mahany is one of our top distributors in the northeast,” says Thomas. “I think this is a unique situation where not only do they sell the ITW Welding products but they teach with them as well. I don’t know of anyone else in the country with this kind of program.”
Classes for all Welders
The classes at RocAFC offer students a wide range of learning opportunities. The daily career program takes 16 students per class. Welders can also take part in evening and weekend welding classes that offer everything from certification training to learning how to weld art projects.
There are partnerships with several schools including Monroe Community College (MCC). The MCC Welding & Fabrication Certificate Program held at RocAFC meets six hours per day, three days per week, for twenty weeks.
The Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) provides two sections of Mechanical Engineering classes through RocAFC and provides weekend and evening classes in addition to customized corporate training for local companies.
“We don’t just teach them how to weld, we show them how to operate the machine, how to use it,” says Krupnicki. “The Miller products are the best for industry. Giving the students the opportunity to work with the latest Miller technology ensures they are ready for real-world welding.”
The school operates on 10 core values that underline safety, the use of modern equipment and learning:
- Programs conducted in a clean, desirable facility
- Student safety always a top priority
- An environment that welcomes anyone interested in welding: young, old, male, female, people from all walks of life
- Students are treated as guests, with every effort made to accommodate their wishes
- Current, state-of-the-art equipment, always in good working order
- Programs that are both educational and entertaining
- Engaged, experienced instructors who love to teach their craft to others
- Abundant supplies always available
- Programs for all levels of interest:
-8 hours to try it out
-30 hours to become proficient
-360 hours for employable proficiency
-Certification programs for professionals
-Credit courses for college students
-Sculpture classes for creative folks
10. Continuous evaluation to ensure that we are providing relevant, high value programs to all our students.
Local industry provides the scrap needed for practice welds, and steel and alloys are readily available for projects. Supplies are never an issue at RocAFC because Mahany stocks a wide selection of steel and alloys so there are always plenty of quality materials for projects. Certified Instructors teach the students during the week and on weekends. Students in the career path program are supplied with Miller Arc Armor personal safety equipment, including welding helmet, gloves, and welding jacket.
Krupnicki has watched his program grow and is proud of the more than 3,000 welders his instructors have taught over the last decade using Miller products. Now with a dedicated building for class-time, more welding cells, and a growing need for welders, he knows the next 3,000 students will pass through much more quickly and will continued to be trained with the best equipment a welder can use.