Partnership 'welds' students, future employers

College, employers fill void in local workforce
Posted at 11:22 AM, Aug 16, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-16 12:30:17-04

 Kurt Stork hated his last job.

 “I was around dead animals, packing houses and formaldehyde and I did not like it,” he says. “I wanted to get into an industry I liked.”

Instead of getting another dead-end job, Stork says he went back to school to learn welding.

Turns out, he is not the only one wanting a career change.

 “I knew I was interested in welding. I didn't know what aspect of it, but I knew it would be a good start to learn as much as I can,” says Joseph Thiem.

Last fall, both students enrolled in the welding program at Metropolitan Community College.

Months later, they also landed a job with one of the largest steel companies in town, Drake Williams.

 “My instructor Chris, I knew he had worked here before,” Thiem says. “So I checked in with Drake and got a job as a material handler.”

As for Stork, he started off by welding beams together.

Not only are they going to school and getting paid to work in an industry they enjoy, the company will reimburse them on their tuition once they graduate.

 “Paycheck has been better,” Stork says. “Work has been [more fun] and been learning a lot and really taking the knowledge I learn from school to work – and from what I've  learned from work to school.”

The concept of reimbursement for college expenses is not new, but there is a reason why companies like Drake Williams Steel go the extra mile in their partnership with MCC. The unemployment rate in Nebraska is the third lowest in the nation.

For some industries, there are simply too many job openings.

I get calls every day from companies, says Chris Beaty, a welding instructor at the college.

“Quite a few different companies call and say, 'Hey, do you have a student who would be good to start with us whether it'd be handling material or some of the other jobs that don't require welding?' That they get familiar with the shop,” Beaty says.

When it comes to the shortage of workers for in-demand jobs, Support Services Director Jon Eden of the steel company claims the partnership gives them the upper hand when searching for qualified candidates.  

“I'd like to think we're at a better advantage. We're absolutely at a better advantage had we done nothing,” Eden says.

While it is a gain for the employers, MCC can also say its graduates land jobs successfully whether it is in the travel industry, interior design or information technology.

Stork says the partnership between the college and industries also bring awareness to careers some may have not entertained.

“There's not a lot of people in this industry it seems like anymore. It seems like its dying but it’s needed still. We’re always going to need buildings and bridges.”