New Episode of Career-Awareness Series to Air on WVIA

Published 06.19.2008

Welding & Metal Fabrication

The second episode of the "degrees that work." television series, a co-production of Pennsylvania College of Technology and WVIA-TV, is set to premiere on the public-television station at 7:30 p.m. on June 29.

The "degrees that work." series is designed to build awareness of careers that may not be familiar to the public but offer ample job opportunities and are projected to see employment growth. The topics have been developed to coincide with Pennsylvania's "targeted industry clusters," which the state has identified as potential areas of growth.

The series' newest episode focuses on welding, highlighting the variety of careers available from the viewpoints of artistic welder Mike Patterson, an alumnus of Williamsport Area Community College (a Penn College forerunner), adjunct faculty member and entrepreneur; and Jennifer Brinkley-Cruz, a 2005 Penn College alumna and manufacturing specialist for Toyota. In addition to chronicling Patterson as he crafts a life-sized great blue heron for a Pennsylvania Guild of Craftsmen show and showcasing Brinkley-Cruz working on the plant floor, the episode features interviews with David R. Cotner, instructor of welding, and with industry representatives at the Fabtech International and American Welding Society Welding Show in Chicago.

"The welding field is so wide and varied that I think a lot of people would find it a good way to go," Patterson says. With more than 30 years of welding experience, he worked in various welding jobs including welding for National Science Foundation facilities in Antarctica and working as a maintenance welder and small-pipe welder at a nuclear power plant before devoting himself full time to his artistic welding business, Steel the Wind, of Oval. "Welding is a wonderful avenue to travel down," he said. "That road doesn't end, and you don't know exactly where the road is going to go, and those are two things that I think make life pretty interesting."

The American Welding Society defines the craft of welding as joining two or more materials together through heat and pressure to form a permanent bond. In the United States, there are approximately 500,000 welders. With an average age of 54, many of today's welders are eyeing retirement, and there aren't enough young people poised to fill the skill vacuum.

AWS estimates there could be a shortage of 200,000 welders by 2010, while our reliance on welding will continue. The episode notes that virtually everything we see and touch is welded or has been created in part by a welded tool.

"I defy almost anyone to look at anything put their hands on anything that is not, within six steps, touched by welding," Cotner says. "Without that, this world crumbles."

"There's really no limit to what you can do," says Gerald Uttrachi, past president of AWS.

However, convincing young people, parents and teachers of welding opportunities has been difficult.

"Welding suffers from kind of an image problem," says Jeff Weber, associate executive director for AWS. "A lot of people think it's dangerous, dirty and maybe dead-end. But nothing could be really further from the truth."

Weber says welders are "more needed now than ever." As the nation's highway infrastructure alone including countless steel bridges approaches 40 years old, it is time for it to be repaired and reworked. In addition to the nation's expressway system, the energy-production infrastructure is also aging.

"So now it's imperative that we maintain or rebuild and even expand these facilities," Weber says. "We need the welding workforce to be able to do that. This is also something that of course isn't going to go offshore, because we're talking about American infrastructure. You've got to do it right here."

The field offers not just jobs, but high-paying and rewarding jobs.

"If you looked at that occupation, it would show that it has high strength, is high growth, and the wages are there," says Anthony Swoope, administrator of the U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Apprenticeship, Employment and Training Administration.

Welders also note great satisfaction in their work. Brinkley-Cruz earned a bachelor's degree in manufacturing engineering technology and oversees automated welding cells at the Toyota Motor Engineering and Manufacturing North America plant in Georgetown, Ky., where a new car rolls off both the facility's assembly lines every 53 seconds.

"I would say this is a dream job for me," she says. "¦ "I am very grateful that I picked such an amazing career field as welding."

Brinkley-Cruz works in the Toyota plant's Body Weld Unit, where 700 robots are responsible for 97 percent of the welds applied to each vehicle. She oversees 40 robotic welding cells, specifying which robots will be used for a task and how the cell should operate.

"When we're faced with challenges here, I definitely get excited about the fact that we can fix it or we can learn from this," she says.

Patterson expressed similar gratification.

"A good day for me is when there are no interruptions, and I can work without stop," he says. "And I know a lot of people don't feel that way about their jobs. (They say) "˜I've got to go to work.' For me, it's like, "˜I get to work.'"

"When you're finished, at the end of the day you've built something," says Lee Kvidahl, senior manager of welding engineering for Northrup Grunman Shipbuilding. "You have fabricated something that someone is going to be using. Many careers can't say that."

Making up the Penn College production crew developing the episode was Christopher J. Leigh, video production coordinator, who was producer/director/editor/camera for the welding episode, and Thomas F. Speicher, video production developer, who was producer/writer/editor/camera/narrator. Kevin Jones of WVIA provided graphics support. Tom Currÿa1, WVIA-TV senior vice president, and Elaine J. Lambert, director of college information and community relations at Penn College, serve as executive producers for the series.

Lambert, who developed the concept for the series with Jennifer A. McLean, director of counseling, career and disability services, said the series helps make young people aware of the varied, sometimes overlooked, job opportunities as they seek to find their fit in the workforce. It also helps to prepare a workforce equipped to meet the needs of the 21st-century economy, a concern that has been at the forefront of the institution's mission since it was founded.

Following its premiere on June 29, the "degrees that work: Welding" episode is scheduled to air at 8:30 p.m. Thursday, July 10; at 5:30 p.m. Sunday, July 13; at 7:30 p.m. Sunday, July 20; and at 10:30 p.m. Friday, July 25. The series' first episode, which focuses on nanotechnology, will run concurrently on the station.

Lambert said the college will partner with WVIA to offer a series of career-awareness episodes over the next several years. Currently in production are episodes focused on expanding opportunities in fields such as plastics and manufacturing.

WVIA plans to distribute the "degrees that work." series to other public television stations across the nation. The episode also can be viewed online .

For more information about Penn College, visit on the Web, e-mail or call toll-free (800) 367-9222.