When Arely Carranza visited JCC’s welding program as a high school student, she knew she’d found her passion.

“I really didn’t know anything about welding, but when I toured the Britt Building it (welding) just looked so cool and interesting,” the 20-year-old said.

Carranza is one of 84 students studying welding at JCC. She’ll graduate in May with her associate’s degree, and she’s already working part-time as a fabrication welder at Atlantic Resources Inc. (ARI) in Smithfield.

Carranza is one of only a few females in the program, but she says her male classmates have developed a real respect for the quality of her welds.

“I like it a lot,” she said of welding. “You have to really have an open mind, be very creative, and clearly see what you are doing,” she said.

JCC currently offers the associate’s degree, a diploma, and four welding certificates, and teaches two classes of high school students at Smithfield-Selma High.

Over the past six years, the College has invested over $500,000 in renovating the welding shop and buying new industry-standard equipment for students to learn how to weld.

“We’ve updated about 80 percent of our welding equipment, and we now have the ability to teach multiple sections at one time due to increasing the shop size,” said Robert Long, lead instructor. “We’ve gone from eight welding booths to 25 welding booths, and we’re still in the process of enhancing our program.”

In addition, the program participates in state and national SkillsUSA competitions to better prepare students for their careers and recently earned national accreditation as an American Welding Society testing facility.

Long says JCC’s program teaches students to be well-rounded welders, giving them experience in areas like drafting, fabrication, and robotic welding automation.

“This day and time employers expect a lot more from welders,” he said. “They are expecting a well-versed individual, and they are often asked to cross over and do other processes in the job other than just welding.”

Long said the employment outlook and earning potential are strong for certified welders. Johnston County companies like General Metals, Structural Steel, The Hales Group, and ARI are actively recruiting graduates for careers as welders, press break operators, and computer numeric control (CNC) cutting table operators.

“They start out at about 12 dollars an hour and make up to $35 an hour,” Long said. “Essentially, if they want a job in welding, there is a job to be had right now. Three or four years ago that was not the case.”

Long compared the craft of welding to art. He said students need to be patient and learn to hone their skill over time.

“Students really need to understand that this is not going to happen overnight,” he said. “It takes time. Our program is heavy on contact hours, so students spend 75 percent of their time in the shop doing hands-on skill training. We base everything off American Welding Society Standards. We have marks we need to hit. This is as much an art as it is a craft. We take as much pride in how that weld looks as an artist does a painting.” 

JCC Welding Credentials At a Glance

Welding Technology Associate’s Degree (two years)
Welding Diploma (two semesters)
Welding Technology Stick Certificate (two semesters)
Welding Technology TIG Certificate (three semesters)
Welding Technology Basic Welding Certificate (two semesters)

For more information about welding at JCC, contact Robert Long at (919) 464-2284 or rjlong@johnstoncc.edu.