By Starrla Cray
WINSTED, MN Duane Westphal adjusts his welding helmet and concentrates on the small metal sheet in front of him.
Sparks fly overhead, and soon, Westphal’s first weld is complete.
“I like to fix things I like working with my hands,” says Westphal, one of nine students who began welding classes March 2 at the Dunwoody Training Center in Winsted.
Four of the students, including Westphal, are receiving free tuition an $8,900 value through a National Emergency Grant, which is being offered to dislocated and long-term unemployed workers.
Westphal was laid off from his most recent job at a plastics manufacturing company in December.
“I’ve mainly had temp jobs in shipping and receiving,” said Westphal, who earned his GED in 1980.
Westphal spent his childhood in south Minneapolis, and later joined the US Army. He was stationed in Germany for more than half of his 8.5 years of service.
Today, Westphal lives in Montrose with his wife, Nancy. They have two adult sons, and two young grandchildren.
After his layoff in December, Westphal had been looking for new opportunities through the Central Minnesota Jobs and Training Center.
“They offered the [welding] class to me,” Westphal said. “I really want to work, and they said its a class to get certified and get employed.”
Welding is in high demand in the area, with many businesses in need of skilled workers. When Westphal graduates this summer, he will likely get a job with one of the companies in the MOVE partnership (Manufacturing Opportunities for Vocational Employment), which helped form the Dunwoody facility in Winsted.
“The instructor said I will still have to take a welding test at any job that I go to,” Westphal said.
Westphal said he’s looking forward to “a good paying job that’s not going to disappear in a couple years.” He hopes to start at $15 to $18 per hour significantly higher than the $12 per hour he was making at his previous job.
The first welding class at the Winsted training center graduated in February, and the second class will graduate in June.
A CNC machine operator program is planned at the center this fall. Classes will cover algebra, trigonometry, geometry, machine math, measurement, materials, safety, job planning, benchwork/layout, and milling.
Applicants must complete the National Career Readiness Certificate (NCRC), which is offered free of charge and focuses on occupational skills needed for workplace success.
To learn more about tuition funding for dislocated and long-term unemployed workers, contact Pat Beatty at Central Minnesota Jobs and Training Services, at (320) 234-0355 or firstname.lastname@example.org.