MONTROSE – For the first time in years, new classes are being offered in Montrose by the Delta-Montrose Technical College, which is based in Delta.
For more than a year, the school has offered computer and welding courses in Montrose, and in February new noncredit community education classes will be offered at several places in town.
Classroom courses such as Gardening at Home, taught by Birdy Herman, and Get a Job, taught by Carolyn McDermott, will be offered in the school district’s Montrose Resource Center on North Sixth Street, while computer classes meet at Mesa State-Montrose on South Cascade Ave. Classes begin in early February.
Already underway are welding classes, the most in demand, taught in a classroom behind Hartman Brothers medical supply store on East Main St. The company, which sells welding supplies, had built the classroom in an effort to provide classes a few years ago, but decided to partner with the technical college instead.
Angela McMurdry, educational services coordinator at the Technical College, said more new classes will be offered in Montrose, including Hotel and Restaurant Hospitality (teacher Keno Rodriquez), and a short course called Teach, focusing on teaching techniques, taught by McDermott. A course titled Discover Your Inner Poet and computer classes, including Introduction to the PC and Learning Windows, will be available.
But the most popular classes – popular to the point that they are bursting at the seams – are the welding classes taught by Stan May, who learned his skills at the Navy shipyards of California, and has taught elsewhere in community colleges.
Diana Tourney, who heads up the Community Education Department at the tech college, said people are driving from Rifle and Telluride and even from outside the state to take May’s classes.
Welding classes have not been taught at the Delta campus since the 1980s, she said, and all the school’s equipment had been sold off
“We had a pretty good-sized program, but when the economy went south, there was no demand,” she said.
About two years ago, Tourney saw a need for farm and home welding, so she started a welding class in Montrose with that focus. They were able to use the Hartman’s fully equipped classroom, and demand soon soared.
“We started getting 50 to 60 calls a month, so we upgraded our professional staff and talked to people in the community and found an instructor,” she said.
Tourney said the school is lucky that May and his wife decided to retire here, since he’s done every kind of welding from underwater to airplanes, and is a certified welding inspector.
People are also calling from out of state to take classes for artistic welding with more exotic metals like brass or bronze, Tourney said, and May can accommodate them as well.
But most people are looking at welding as a way to make a living, and although there are no credit hours for the course, starting this semester the school will offer certification testing.
Jobs may be scarce now, but over the next 20 years, the American Welding Society predicts a 200,000 shortage of welders, Tourney said.
“At first you think, how can that be?” Tourney said. “But look at all the bridges and buildings and ships and oilfields and pipelines, and they all require maintenance.”
And so, Tourney said, she expects the welding program to grow. The course is 32 hours long and costs between $6,000-$7,000.
“Another thing driving (a shortage) is people wanting government contracts that require certified welders,’ she said.
Realistically, many students will take their training back to their hometowns or where they can find work, she said.
“Our vision for the program is another reason it’s so successful,” she said. “When you go to a welding school you’d better have $13,000 or $20,000 to go. When you realize the rate of pay they get, you understand why.”
Classes are kept small on purpose, Tourney said, because part of the school’s mission is to provide high-quality education. Some schools have two or more students at each welding station in a classroom, she said, but the Technical College offers more hands-on learning opportunities than others, with high teaching standards and student safety paramount.
As he waited for his students to finish a project last week, May, 62, said retiring baby boomers will cause a shortage of welders – something already he’s already seeing in places like Arizona and Southern California.
May’s home business, Stan’s Portable Welding, allows him to bring his equipment to class for “show and tell.” He said he’s fortunate that his teaching job is such a perfect fit.
“I saw the [class] schedule in the paper, and then Diana [Tourney] calls,” he said about becoming a welding teacher. “This is my gift. I like passing on my knowledge.”
As May began talking about the different types of welding, two students came out of the classroom to show him their work. Dan Weyers, 19, of Montrose, and Ricky Colton, 21, of Delta, are both pursuing welding as a career.
Weyers got started welding with a class at Montrose High, he said, and Colton took an interest because he has several welders in his family.
According to May, just about anyone can learn to weld, but the skill takes patience, practice and a lot of time. Women are generally better at it than men, he said, but anyone who is self-taught would benefit from the course.
“If you are self-taught, you have a lot of bad habits,” he said. “Here they learn to correct their mistakes, and proper training makes them better welders.”
Welding and other Community Education classes through Delta-Montrose Technical College can be viewed online at www.dmtc.edu by clicking on Community Ed or by calling 970/874-6540 for more information.