October 28, 2008
CHEYENNE, WY –
An innovative new mobile educational facility visited the State Capitol today from Eastern Wyoming College (EWC) in Torrington.
The college’s new mobile welding lab parked in front of the Capitol and Gov. Dave Freudenthal and other state officials toured the lab, housed in a large tractor-trailer with EWC advertisements emblazoned on the outside. The lab allows the college to teach students and professionals welding skills both at the college and at job sites across southeast Wyoming.
The Governor applauded the college for its move to work with industry and to mesh its programs with the current demand for skilled labor in the state.
“This is exactly the kind of responsiveness we’ve hoped for from the state’s community colleges,” Freudenthal said. “These institutions are uniquely suited to efforts like this one that work with industry and enable students to gain the skills they need to stay in Wyoming and contribute to the state’s economy.”
There to lead the governor through the lab were EWC President Dr. Tom Armstrong, welding program director Leland Vetter, board of trustees members Carl Rupp and George Nash and college staff.
“Eastern Wyoming College is proud to step up and move forward, providing the best welding and joining training anywhere we can wheel it,” Armstrong said. “If you think the mobile rig is a ‘head turner,’ you need to check out the programs and the opportunities that we provide. We’re very proud of our programs and our students.”
Tami Afdahl, director of college relations, said the mobile lab is a direct result of the college’s communications with industry and its expression of the need for a mobile training facility.
“We’ve been trying to listen to industry and find out what their needs are,” she said. “We figured, why not take a champion program on the road so that we can respond to some of those needs?”
The mobile lab was designed to offer more flexibility for EWC’s celebrated welding program and for its instructors. There are times when an instructor will go out with the lab and train people on site, and times when outside instructors might be able to use the facility, Afdahl said.
“We have found that some business and industry people that we’ve talked to simply can’t stop operations and send a crew in for a week of training. Now, we can bring the training to them,” she said.
The lab cost just over $200,000 and was funded with one-time funding allocated to EWC through the state’s funding formula.
Welding is a program that the college is particularly proud of, program director Leland Vetter said. “We’ve got former students now working in mining, oil and gas, construction and also working as educators,” he said. “There is a significant demand for these skills in Wyoming and across the West.”
EWC’s welding program began in 1980, when Vetter held classes at the local high school until the EWC building was completed in 1981. The program began with 12 students has grown to a current enrollment of 75 students from 6 states. Since 1980, more than 200 students have completed certificates and degrees in welding from EWC.
“This mobile welding lab has been a dream of mine for 20 years,” Vetter said. “It is my hope that it will provide a regional testing and training center for business and industry that will also provide some flexibility with offerings and instructors.”
Growth in the program led to the hiring of an additional full-time faculty member in 2000 and another in 2007. The program currently has three full-time instructors and one part-time instructor.
In 1992, Vetter became an American Welding Society (AWS) certified welding inspector and welding instructor. EWC became an accredited test center, by the AWS, in 1996. The focus of the EWC program has always been on the maintenance and repair industry which is different from other programs.