A Partnership of Success: The Refuge Career Connection and CSCC’s OneSource Mig Welding Training

A Partnership of Success: The Refuge Career Connection and CSCC’s OneSource Mig Welding Training

Holly Vincent
Friday, May 31, 2019 12:00 AM

CLEVELAND, Tenn. - The Refuge and Cleveland State Community College Workforce Development recently held a graduation for seven students who participated successfully in all elements of The Refuge Career Connection, a two-part workforce training that prepares individuals for long-term careers.

The first week of training takes place at The Refuge, where job preparation skills are taught. During the first week, students learn about soft skills, develop their resumes, participate in interview simulations, learn about Microsoft Word and Excel and develop money budgeting skills. Upon graduation, the students earn a diploma from the American Heart Association for 2 year AED, One-man CPR, Choking, and Infant. Chief Operations Officer, Brian Stewart (The Refuge), and Dr. Terry Johns, Executive Director (The Refuge), give each graduate a new welding hood to go with the gloves they receive in the program, making it easier to apply for welding jobs.  

The second week of training requires the completion of 40 hours of rigorous, hands-on MIG Welding training on site at Cleveland State. CSCC teaches students MIG welding processes, machine set-up, basic math, blueprint reading, basic welding symbology, welding safety, welding materials and gases. Upon successful demonstration of competencies, students earn the Workplace MIG Welding Training OneSource Certificate of Achievement, and four Continuing Education Units (CEUs). Training officer Brian Deaton and training specialist Nick Smith of Norfolk Southern traveled from McDonough, GA to CSCC to test students on the last training day for certification on the American Welding Society (AWS) Fillet weld, position 2F flat weld, WPS No. NS-T1/2.

Deaton said, “Our partnership with Cleveland State Community College and the Refuge has been rewarding. To see so many lives changed from a service that we provide is something that Norfolk Southern is proud of and pleased to be a part of.”  

Norfolk Southern, an Accredited Testing Facility (ATF) for the American Welding Society (AWS), administers testing programs for procedure qualification and maintenance renewal for any welding code.

When asked about her experience in the two-part training delivered by The Refuge and CSCC, graduate Brandi Arp, stated, “We are so excited! Before this class, we were lucky to make $18.00 an hour combing our wages. Now, we can make that each! And not even a week after graduation, and we (husband, Jeremy Arp) both have jobs. Total game and life changer for us!”

 According to Bre LaMountain, CSCC OneSource Workforce Development Coordinator, all graduated welders are capable of entry-level welding careers and are in an excellent position to grow within the field of welding. Working closely with The Refuge, five of the recently graduated seven students had already obtained interviews, scheduled on the day of graduation and the following week. Two of the seven have already secured fulltime employment.

Dr. Terry Johns, Executive Director of The Refuge, says, “We are thrilled to share this partnership with Cleveland State Community College OneSource Workforce Development. We have a solid working relationship and share a similar vision to make a difference in our community. The Career Connection Career Readiness Training arose out of our (The Refuge) commitment to build relationships within the community, listen to residents’ concerns and visions, and work together to develop strategies and programs. As we listened, talked to key individuals in the community and representatives from industry, business, and education, we decided to make employment services the center of our nonprofit work.

Johns continued, “As we continued with the development of programs, we soon discovered that a key element missing was skills training. This large need in the community prompted us to begin discussions with CSCC OneSource, City Fields (formerly Impact Cleveland), and the Chamber of Commerce. We began investigating the possibility of intensive skills training to supply employees for high demand jobs. We were not sure that any two-week program could offer training that would give individuals entry-level skills for the middle-skills jobs we identified. We had tried a few things with minimal success. Finally, the idea for MIG Welding was floated. Everyone agreed: ‘You can’t train someone to weld in one week.’ This was an experiment at best, and some might say a risky one. To make a long story short, we beat the odds.”

The program is now in the fifth year of Career Connection and Mig Welding partnership with Cleveland State Community College.

Johns said, “During this time, the program has grown and gained a level of respect within our community. This month, because of the job rate and success of our participants, the American Job Center became a partner, helping fund qualified individuals and provide some of their tools.”

Bre LaMountain, Cleveland State Community College OneSource Workforce Development coordinator, explains, “It was very exciting for us when The Refuge approached us five years ago and discussed their ideas for training individuals to weld who had never touched a torch in their lives. At that time, Cleveland State’s welding lab was newly built. We already knew the need for welders and the living wages that could be earned; we could not wait to jump in with The Refuge.”

LaMountain relays that Ryan Blackstone, Bart Withrow, and Travis Butler, all Cleveland State OneSource welding instructors, also teach MIG, TIG, and stick welding training for Cleveland State’s local industries. The Refuge and OneSource Mig training runs five times per year, which provides a way for justice-involved participants and participants who just need a do-over, a second chance to reach success. The instructors care about all of the students passing through the program, and know that being able to showcase a valuable industry skill is one of the best ways to build financial stability and success, and keep from falling back into old patterns.

Travis Butler, a graduate of the program, now teaches OneSource welding for Career Connection.

“This program saved my life and has significantly benefited my whole family, as well, stated Butler, “I found myself battling some very serious demons, which threatened the livelihood and well-being of my family. I was on a dead end street to the grave or prison if something didn’t change dramatically!”

Butler heard about the Career Connections welding program from his brother who had graduated from the program. Once Butler graduated, he chose to volunteer as a way of giving back to the community, but has since been added to the payroll.

“I found a calling in life—a trade I can use anywhere in the world to provide a good life for my family despite my past mistakes that seemed to overshadow all hope at a good, healthy life for my wife and kids…having a program that actually cares made all the difference. I am where I am in life because of the people involved in Career Connections and OneSource. I was uplifted and empowered by the whole experience and all the individuals involved.”

According to Butler, during the five years of the program, they have trained 200 individuals. These 200 have increased their annual income by almost $3 million dollars.

For more information about The Refuge, visit www.refugecl.org or call (423) 584-5211. For more information about CSCC’s Welding Program, visit www.clevelandstatecc.edu or call (423) 472-7141, ext. 447.

Photo Cutline: Students Jeremy Arp and his wife, Brandi.

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