Rankin, Vicksburg-Warren Campus students finish tops in Hinds CC welding competition
PEARL – Nathan Lantrip hadn’t gone behind a welder’s shield since high school before enrolling at Hinds Community College last summer.
On Thursday, the Brandon native’s smooth weld on a plate test proved he might be a man of steel after all. His workmanship was judged best among 15 of his peers in HCC’s welding program who took part in a competition at the Career and Technical Building at the Rankin Campus, the first such event held at the facility.
“I haven’t welded since high school,” Lantrip said. “I lost my job in sporting goods because it got bought out by another company. I figured I’d might as well go back to school.”
The 37-year-old husband and father said the pressure of the event was nearly as hot as the torch used to bind the seven-inch plates together in the curtained booths set up for each contestant.
“I was fine all the way until they said go,” Lantrip said. “Got to the last pass, then he said, ‘Hurry up!’, then I got nervous again. It all worked out in the end, I guess.”
Rounding out the top five were Matthew Brown, of Vicksburg; James M. Franklin and Jody Jones, both of whom attend the Rankin Campus; and Tony Kaho, of the Raymond Campus. Each got to choose a prize from among a collection of welding gear and supplies donated by Yates Construction. Resumes each student brought was to be sent to the DeKalb, Miss.-based construction company’s human resources department so each would be considered for jobs.
“It was fun and a challenge,” Brown said. “They were actually more lenient than I thought they’d be; I thought there’d be a judge in each booth. I brought my own hard hat and hood, that way I’d be 100 percent comfortable.”
Brown, 21, along with others in the top five, seeks a Technical Certificate to add to his work experience in the field with contract welding jobs. Doing so, organizers said, eventually will enable them to name their price in the workplace.
“Welders are really hard to find right now,” said Malcolm Rainwater, human resources manager and site lead for Yates, told contestants during a brief review session before the contest. “What you’re doing is exactly what we need. We need welders who will come to work when they’re supposed to. And when you get certified, you’ll make a pocketful of money. We’re paying top pipe-welders $30 an hour.”
Students in the program earn a Career Certificate after 30 semester credit hours are completed. A Technical Certificate is earned after 45 hours. Associates of Applied Science degrees are attainable after 60 credit hours.
“Ultimately, they’re all winners because they made it here,” said Sherry Franklin, career and technical dean at the Rankin Campus. “We want to build partnerships with business and industry, and this is a great showcase for our welding division at Hinds Community College as our students are preparing for the workforce.”
Competitors were graded on eight key points – good fusion and penetration of the base metal, little or no porosity or slag inclusion, uniform appearance of beads in the binding weld, minimum distortion, fullness and completion of welds at the end, whether a maximum of 1/8 of an inch of reinforcement was achieved, whether ¼ inch of linear indication was reached, and whether at least two passes, or overlaps in the bonded metal, were visible on the weld’s face.
“This is our first competition,” said Phillip Manning, craft training manager for Yates, during the review session. “But, with the quality instructors at Hinds, we felt like we’d have good leadership. We have the potential to have some good employees come out of these programs.”
Ken Daniels, of Airgas, a key supplier in the welding industry, judged the event.
“Airgas is happy to partner with the colleges and vocational schools,” Daniels said. “There’s a shortage of skilled labor out there. We need to get people in the pipeline for the jobs that are out there and open. And it needs to be a stepping stone for their education – keep trying to get that next certification to get out of that minimum wage class and into that skilled labor class we’re so short on. That way, when you’re 50 years old, you’re telling someone how to do it instead of having to get down there in the ditch and do it yourself.”
As Mississippi’s largest community college, Hinds Community College is a comprehensive institution offering quality, affordable educational opportunities with more than 170 academic, career and technical programs. With six locations in central Mississippi, Hinds enrolled nearly 12,000 credit students in fall 2014. To learn more, visit www.hindscc.edu or call 1.800.HindsCC.