The Kentucky Welding Institute (KWI) opened its doors in August 2015 as a grassroots effort with the guidance of education and industry professionals. With input from both academic and welding standpoints, the founding parties were able to craft a certification conglomeration that would ensure well-rounded welders were entering the workforce.
This was accomplished by evaluating the state and needs of the welding industry, what employers were searching for and additional certifications to offer that would set graduates of KWI apart.
“Our goal is producing a quality employee who is viable in today’s demanding workforce. NCCER provides excellent training and credentials backed by quality assessments and certifications which are recognized throughout the construction industry.” Ashley Applegate, the director of training at KWI said, “In addition to NCCER, KWI offers credentials and certifications from the American Welding Society, OSHA, MSHA, ASHI and others, all of which make our graduates some of the most desirable employees in the workforce.”
Throughout the 24-week program, students will train 40 hours a week in their designated work area, in simulations and outdoors to ensure they can properly accomplish field welding jobs when there is a change of scenery. Daily, students are immersed in an experience that is imitative of an actual job site. They will give and receive safety briefs and use tools and materials that are up to date with industry standards. Along the way, students are not only getting their education, but they are also earning NCCER credentials.
Levi Chappelow, a KWI graduate said, “The certifications, bulletproof resume and one-on-one training I received from instructors who were just as motivated as I was, pushed me hard to make my dream a reality. Without a doubt in my mind, I can say KWI made me the welder I am today. My first job on the road was $40/100 [hourly wage/per diem]. Thank you, KWI.”
KWI hopes to sharpen its students not only with the proper curriculum, training and highly invested instructors, but it is built to prepare them for the general workforce. Perfect attendance, certification completion and landing a job before graduation are all rewarded. On the other hand, the tardy policy is a limit of one absence or two tardies per month, and there are random 14-panel drug tests that are administered to ensure the students not only have excellent welding skills but have the work ethic and character of a great employee.
The efficiency of operating under an industry contractor is evidenced by KWI’s 92% job placement rate. This insight helps them to be aware of current employment trends in the industry and to adjust their education strategy accordingly.
Jacob Owens, the 2016 Kentucky Skills USA Welding Champion had several choices for welding schools and scholarships. “I chose KWI because my future was more important than a discount. My investment has paid off.” Owens said, “After six months of intense training my resume is full, my skills are sharp, and I was able to head straight to a job in Cape Canaveral, FL welding pipe for $35 an hour.”
KWI offers students several certification programs, all of which are self-paced. This allows students to work as fast or as slow as they would like, catering to each learning style. The three main certifications are the certified fabricator, certified structural welder and certified pipe welding programs. Additional programs include certifications in copper, nickel, chrome, duplex and more. The fabricator program emphasizes the maintenance, repair, assembly and creation of metal projects. The structural program focuses on the operation and procedures of the structural steel welding industry. The pipe welding program offers four pipe certifications and covers a wide range of concepts that can be applied to different job sites that require pipe welding.
KWI has used NCCER training and curriculum since its opening six years ago. They are an accredited training sponsor as well as an accredited assessment site allowing them to deliver the National Craft Assessment and Certification Program under an accredited assessment center. Not only does KWI offer training in welding, but they are accomplishing their original goal of producing versatile craft professionals with training in boiler making, pipe fitting, rigging and signaling. With 10 NCCER-certified instructors, two master trainers and one practical examiner, KWI is well-equipped to provide a wide range of instruction to its students.
With KWI being relatively new, it has plans and goals still to be accomplished. In the fall of 2020, the institute became an assessment center location enabling KWI to offer boilermaker and pipefitter assessments and award silver card certifications. In the spring of 2021 KWI became an endorsed assessment location for the gold card rigger signalperson certification. Soon to come, KWI intends to add the gold card hydraulic crane certification. To accept FAFSA, a popular source of financial aid, KWI will need to become an accredited organization, which is also a part of the plan.