South Florida State College (SFSC) was awarded $500,000 through a special funding allocation by the Florida legislature to create a mobile welding lab that will provide low-cost, high-demand workforce training to the residents of DeSoto, Hardee, and Highlands counties.
“The governor’s budget was titled ‘Securing Florida’s Future’ and that’s exactly what this special funding initiative does for our region,” said Dr. Thomas C. Leitzel, president of SFSC. “Welding is a core skill for various jobs and industry sectors. We’re thrilled to be able to offer this specialized training in an innovative and convenient delivery method for the residents of our district. Bringing the classroom to our students for short-term training makes sense. SFSC is extremely grateful to Senator Denise Grimsley and Representative Ben Albritton, who both sponsored the legislation that led this important funding initiative through their respective chambers.”
With no formal welding training programs available in Florida’s rural heartland region, this mobile welding lab has the potential to train more than 150 students annually and offer short-term training options with significant income and earning potential to the tri-county region.
“South Florida State College is excited to have the opportunity to expand technical training opportunities throughout our service area,” said Dr. Sidney E. Valentine Jr., vice president for academic affairs and student services at SFSC. “The addition of the mobile welding lab will allow SFSC to not only reach students at our four campuses, but also area high schools and industry locations throughout the region. This training will vary in length from degree, certificate, and diploma programs to just-in-time workforce development training through SFSC’s Corporate and Community Education Department.”
Welding is one of the most in-demand workforce skills with 3.4 percent annual growth in the heartland region and an estimated 800 welders needed annually in central Florida. According to CareerSource Florida, trained welders can earn a starting salary of $17 per hour with a possible future salary of $30 per hour, or $60,000 annually, which is more than the average salary for someone who possesses a vocational certificate.
“We are eager to support the needs of businesses in our service district with a mobile welding lab,” said Erik N. Christensen, dean of applied sciences and technology at SFSC. “The new welding program will greatly complement many of the programs currently offered and help satisfy a need with our local employers. Virtually every company has a need for welding—some businesses need full-time welders while others may just need one of their employees to be able to weld as the need arises. The mobile lab will enable us to provide the right training anywhere, anytime.”
The lab will be housed in a large trailer with both simulator and live-welding units. Trainers and equipment will be included to facilitate arc welding (MIG, TIG, and Stick Welding). The lab will continuously travel throughout the tri-county region, as needed.
With a pool of trained welders available locally, DeSoto, Hardee, and Highlands counties will be positioned to attract new employers and industry leaders to the region.
For more information about the mobile welding lab, contact Erik Christensen at 863-784-7424 or Erik.Christensen@southflorida.edu.
ABOUT SOUTH FLORIDA STATE COLLEGE
South Florida State College (SFSC) is a comprehensive, open-access, higher education institution dedicated to providing a student-centered environment focused on learning and personal enrichment through quality programs and services. At its campuses in DeSoto, Hardee, and Highlands counties and through its online presence, the College offers certificates, associate degrees, and bachelor’s degrees that lead to the continued success of its graduates and a variety of opportunities for the educational, cultural, and economic advancement of the service district. SFSC is one of the 28 institutions of the Florida College System.