COCC Competition Fuses Metal, Fortifies A Vital Trade

Welding Student

Central Oregon Community College's (COCC) Manufacturing and Applied Technology Center (MATC) will be hosting its 2nd annual Central Oregon High School Welding Competition at the Redmond campus on Friday, March 24, with students from throughout the region vying to best transform a blueprint into welded conclusion.

In and of itself, the competition is an important oneencouraging future tradespeople to build upon their skills with confidence and employability. Yet the larger issue at work is the highlighting of key industry trades that are currently in decline.

"Anywhere we look across the United States, we are all facing the skills gap' epidemic," according to Christopher Baughman, MATC program director, citing a shortage that's affecting the labor and manufacturing base in America. Estimates from the U.S. Department of Labor call for seven million construction jobs to be filled by 2024, but skilled workers are retiring at a rate that is outpacing national growth while a knowledge-based economy has robbed the manufacturing sector of a workforce.

Community colleges are helping to take up the slack and move more trained workers into their fields, faster. "Here at COCC," said Baughman, "we hope and strive to be that bridge and community partner to provide these skills to our future tradespeople."

The high school competition challenges welding students with both a written test and practical application, providing them time with a blueprint to obtain critical measurements, essential welding variables and project layout. Local industry partners that have donated prizes for the competition include Prineville's Mill Power, and Airgas, Oxarc, and Norco from Bend.

"It is very important to take a minute and reflect on how important our partnership with the local high schools is to all of us," explained Baughman, "not just here at COCC, but in the entire Central Oregon community. The goal is building relationships, and employable skills within our community, neighboring schools and local industry partners."