In 2010, at the height of the recession, the Community College of Allegheny County West Hills Center saw a spike in demand for its welding program, so officials added a late-night session.
The 11 p.m. to 3 a.m. class booked quickly, but was only offered the one year.
Now the school is seeing demand for the class spike again and will offer midnight welding in the fall.
“The (Shell Chemical) Cracker plant is saying they’re going to need 2,000 welders at the peak of their construction so that is going to drain our market considerably of experienced welders,” said CCAC West Hills Center Assistant Dean Ron Logreco.
Logreco said he thinks the spike is directly related to the announcement of the cracker plant.
“When we ran it in 2010, we got all kinds of reason (why people enrolled in the class),” Logreco said. “People who had children found it very convenient, there were people who were laid off and there were other people who just found it to mesh with the end of their shift, their work shift.”
The welding lab at CCAC can only accommodate 16 students in what Logreco calls an “intense” course.
“It’s a 16-week fast-track program to get you certified at an entry-level welding certification,” he said. “We are clocking at a 93-percent certification rate.”
From there, students can improve their certification level through weekend courses.
According to Logreco, a new welder can earn $14-15 an hour and an experienced welder can bring in up to $38 an hour.
Along with the welding work inside the plant, welding jobs are expected to be created with the construction of pipelines used to bring product to and from the facility.
“As a result of its close proximity to a source of natural gas, the plant – and its customers – will benefit from shorter and more dependable supply chains, compared to supply from the Gulf Coast,” Shell officials said in a press release.
Construction is expected to begin in about 18 months, with production starting “early in the next decade.” Officials with the company said they expect the facility to have a peak annual production of 1.6 million tons of polyethylene.