TW: What is unique about your program?
Cotner: It’s one thing to show somebody how to do
the task—we could teach anyone to melt metal to
make a good weld repetitively. But we also place a
heavy focus on teaching our students why something
has to be done the way it’s done. If we don’t, we’ll
never be able to bring them along to the next level.
For example, I’m fairly convinced that someone
could teach me how to perform heart surgery under
perfect conditions. But what would I do when the
conditions change? As soon as any of
the variables change, I can’t do it. Why?
Because I only know the how and not the
We believe that it’s important to impart
so much other material into our courses
because we want to develop well-rounded critical thinkers who can do more than
just lay a bead. We’ll teach them how to
weld a T-joint, we’ll teach them how to
weld a T-joint with 7525, and then we’ll
teach them how to do it in spray transfer
mode, in short-circuit mode, and then
explain why. It’s those lessons that make
our students that much better in the working world.
We don’t want to be the school that
does things the way they’ve always been
done. We want to be the school that does
what industry needs.
TW: What are the needs of the welding
and manufacturing employers in your
region? What are employers asking for
from your students?
Cotner: Between 20 and 25 years ago
this area had a heavy need for flux-cored
arc welding (FCAW) and submerged arc
welding (SAW). We had a railcar manufacturer in the Milton area and they were
constantly gobbling up people to work
those processes. Roughly 10 years ago
we had companies in the area that were
doing a lot of boiler work, so there was a
need for TIG welders and people experienced in working with stainless steel.
Colton: A big portion of our welding
population comes to us from at least a
four-hour radius, and we draw from 14
different states. A lot of the students who
come to us are probably going to return
to their home states. While we want to
meet the needs of local industry, our
primary focus is on educating and training well-
rounded welders who can make a living and be
successful wherever they end up, whether it’s in this
area or somewhere else nationwide.
Editor Amanda Carlson can be reached at
Pennsylvania College of Technology,
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