Welding Students Into Future Metal Workers

El Vaquero Staff Writer

Look around; it is almost everywhere. It is in the cars on the road, in the planes above the clouds, in the desks at elementary schools; and in almost every home in America. It is welded metal and GCC’s welding program teaches students how to perform a historical and invaluable trade.

“Welding and metallurgy [an area that focuses on where metals come from, what happens to metal when heated and how metal is tested] are important, not to just to GCC, but to the infrastructure of society; almost everything we use in civilization requires fabrication with metal,” Associate Professor of Welding Technology John Kray, who has taught at the college for 28 years, said.

“If we did not have special training programs for welders at places like GCC and other vocational schools, we would be trusting our lives to unskilled people who simply were never taught the right way, the safe way to join metal.”

Because of this importance Kray feels the recent proposal to cut back on the welding program is a serious problem.

“There is a process here on campus called Program Review that vocational teachers like myself have to basically defend our programs [against in order to not be] eliminated,” Kray said.

According to Kray there is a real need for the program, especially to those students wanting to make a career out of it.

Due to the presence of joined metal in almost every aspect of life, the career field for welders is one that may never die. As a matter of fact, the process of welding goes back to the time of the ancient Egyptians. Archeologists, who have located hieroglyphics from the time of the Egyptians, found that a process called forge welding, achieved by melting metal at temperatures above 2,000 degrees, was commonly used. According to Kray, the process was used up until about 100 years ago, when it was replaced with electric processes.

The electrical processes allow people “with little experience to be able to learn enough [of the process] to join metal for their own purposes or creativity,” Kray said. “[But,] the critical welding jobs require a lot more experience and special certifications or licenses to pursue that area.”

Companies such as The Department of Water and Power in Glendale and Burbank, Glendale Unified School District and Honeywell in Long Beach attract certified GCC welders.

In addition, smaller companies, such as those involved with movies, props, special effects, construction companies, shipyards and environmental projects rely on colleges, like GCC, to generate competent welders.

While the certificate program allows a promising career path for some students, many of the participants in the welding program take the instruction and use it to create art.

“There is a large connection between welding and the arts; we just recently hosted the director of the Art Center College of Design here for a special demonstration for about 20 people who became design engineers and artists,” Kray said. The program has welcomed Instructor of Art Annabelle Aylmer by demonstrating the techniques of certain welding tools that are used in creating certain mediums of art. In addition, the program has added a Saturday section, which is taught by a former employee of the aerospace industry, Mark Dieny. These additions and improvements have made Kray happy to be involved.

“It has been my privilege to have taught this subject for 28 years; I hope the welding program will continue long after I leave.”