Hands-on trade needs thousands of new workers - WFLA News Channel 8

Hands-on trade needs thousands of new workers

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HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, FL (WFLA) -

Frederick P. Everhart is hoping learning a hands-on trade will lead him down a new path.

"By 2020 there will be approximately 250,000 welding positions," the 60 year-old Everhart said. "We definitely don't want those jobs to go overseas."

Everhart who has spent years as a pipe-fitter for sprinkler systems, enrolled in a new welding program at Hillsborough Community College. The program started as companies at the Port of Tampa need the skilled laborers as well as other smaller businesses like body shops.

"At the end of this class, I'm quite sure most of these people here, they're going to be able to find a job," said instructor Willie Poole. "Myself, {I have} 46 years experience in one place. One of the biggest fabricating companies in Tampa."

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates there will be a need for 50,700 more welders by 2020. Last year Florida, a right-to-work state, was on the lower end of the annual mean wage scale: $27,240 to $33,820. In states like Louisiana, however, that wage jumps up closer to $50,000.

Specialists like underwater welders can make much more.

"Who knows...I may be the next person to start making fine art and selling it to rich people," said HCC welding student Jonathan Lamardo as he laughed.

The program is also hoping to train veterans like Andrew Reed, a 25-year-old Army veteran who served in Afghanistan. He did mechanical work in the service and, like thousands of other veterans now getting out of the military, is looking for something to peak his interest professionally.

"It's something that I can do," Reed said. "I can create things out of nothing."

The education is an investment: In-state tuition for the welding program is around $5,100 with lab fees and there is about 1,100 hours of course work.

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