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Ahead of the Curve

Ferris welding program embraces modern technology

by Published: Nov 6, 2013

WELDINGFerris State University is one of the top uni­ver­si­ties in the United States for welding.

Throughout the entire coun­try, there are six uni­ver­si­ties which offer a welding-based pro­gram. Of those six, Ferris State University, which has the largest such pro­gram, is con­sid­ered by many to be the best school to receive an edu­ca­tion in welding.

Welding in any capac­ity has become a hot com­mod­ity through­out the coun­try for many rea­sons. In the age where an increas­ing num­ber of jobs are being given to machines, the indus­try is sorely in need of col­lege grads with a degree in weld­ing tech­nolo­gies to give their com­pa­nies’ prod­ucts what robots can’t: the human touch.

“We’re get­ting to the point where all of the welders who came up with­out the heavy use of machines are start­ing to retire,” said Jeff Hardesty, the adviser for both Welding Engineering Technology Programs. “We have robots that can cer­tainly do a lot, but we need skilled human welders to do what they can’t: to get the angles machines can’t get.”

With more baby boomers retir­ing, many com­pa­nies are look­ing to fill their staff with young but expe­ri­enced welders (who stand to have a start­ing salary around $65,000) because what’s rare is what’s in high demand. So nat­u­rally, as with nurs­ing a few years ago, peo­ple cur­rently in col­lege are jump­ing at the chance to get such a read­ily avail­able job.

First and fore­most, Ferris stu­dents look­ing to go into the weld­ing busi­ness should know Ferris doesn’t offer a degree sim­ply called “weld­ing.” There are two degrees avail­able depend­ing on how far one wishes to take their weld­ing education.

The first is an associate’s degree in weld­ing tech­nolo­gies, which will enable stu­dents to work as a weld­ing super­vi­sor, an inspec­tor or a robot pro­gram­mer with a set of basic weld­ing skills. The sec­ond is a four-year bachelor’s degree in weld­ing engi­neer­ing technology.

“Our pro­gram teaches stu­dents more than just weld­ing,” Hardesty said. “We don’t have them put in the hours it would take to be a totally awe­some welder, but we give them enough prac­tice to be good ones. We think it’s more impor­tant that stu­dents under­stand the sci­ence and physics of what goes into the met­als and all other parts so that they’re able to do the set-up job or pro­gram the robot to achieve the right angles. We don’t teach stu­dents to go out and weld for a liv­ing; we go beyond that.”

For Ferris’s weld­ing tech­nolo­gies pro­gram, stu­dents have come from across the coun­try to study the craft before going into the field. The rea­son so many stu­dents choose to come to Ferris is because Ferris is the only school with an accred­ited weld­ing engi­neer­ing tech­nol­ogy degree, which puts the pro­gram at the top of the list for aspir­ing welders.

While Ferris’s weld­ing engi­neer­ing tech­nol­ogy pro­gram may be the most sought-after pro­gram of its kind, it does not teach stu­dents to actu­ally work as welders. Instead, it teaches stu­dents to work along­side cur­rent tech­nol­ogy while learn­ing to apply what Hardesty calls “adap­tive human logic” when necessary.

The deci­sion as to which of those is the more valu­able direc­tion — that’s up to the student.