December 31, 2012

Learn skills for in-demand jobs

WNC Welding, Auto Mechanics Classes Regain Popularity

Student Tommy Lee and Instructor Randy Sharp in Fallon Auto Class
Student Tommy Lee and Instructor Randy Sharp in Fallon Auto Class

As Nevada and the rest of the nation rebound from economic recession, there has been renewed interest for job preparation education and training. At Western Nevada College Fallon campus, students of all ages are eager to learn technical skills and add hands-on experience to their workforce portfolio. Welding and auto mechanics classes are again being offered, and their return has been embraced.

“The interest is there, and with the economy the way it is, people are realizing they need to get a skill under their belt that they can take with them in the future,” said Ray Hockemier, a WNC Fallon welding instructor.

Auto mechanics instructor Randy Sharp said attendance in his fall general mechanics class revealed the level of commitment and importance of the class to the students.

“Everybody showed up to every class,” he said of his 14 students. “I was really impressed when it opened back up that there was a full class.” Asked, why, he ticked off a list. “Saving the cost of taking your car to a repair shop might be your motivation. Perhaps you are pursuing Automotive Service Excellence certification. Or maybe you are inclined to brush up on your general automotive repair knowledge".

“I find that most of the students lean toward working on their own vehicle and saving the cost of labor, which is $60 to $120 an hour,” said Sharp, a master certified technician who has worked in the field for 20-plus years. “Any time you can work on your own vehicle, you are saving yourself some money.”

Hockemier has been a welder for 40 years, and for the past 15 years he has operated his own business, Ray’s Welding, in Fallon. He takes pleasure in seeing a motivated teenager pick up the welding skills and knowledge necessary for employment, or the middle-age workers looking to expand their skill set so they offer more to a current employer.

“I like teaching,” Hockemier said. “I like to see when a student comes to you and he’s open-minded and ready to learn. And when they walk away, they have your skill.”

One such motivated student is Peter Lossing, who began taking Hockemier’s welding classes when he was 17, and has been employed through his welding skills.

He said his classes were extremely helpful and fun, “and I wouldn’t know how to weld without them.” Lossing, who now is 18, said, “I’m thinking about taking some more classes this semester and looking to get all my certifications up to standard.”

Hockemier’s students in Welding I and Welding I practice classes may enter the semester knowing next to nothing about the trade, but they will leave the class being able to weld from flat and vertical positions. They also learn TIG and gas welding, as well as the skills to manipulate rods, warpage and fabrication.

“We have a lot of fun learning to weld, and there’s not a lot of pressure,” Hockemier said. “We give more to each student as they can take it.”

The shop in Sage Hall has 14 welding machines that provide students access to wire feed welders, stick welders, cutting torches and gas or oxy acetylene welding. Hockemier said there have also been discussions about adding classes on-site at area mills and mines.

“There’s a lot of excitement for the next few semesters,” he said.

This spring’s offerings will include Welding II and Welding II practice on Mondays, 6 to 8:45 p.m., and Wednesdays, 7 to 9:45 p.m. Students can continue developing welding skills for SMAW, GMAW, GTAW production in overhead, flat, horizontal and vertical positions. It fulfills a requirement for the Associate of Applied Science degree in Welding Technology, and the Certificate of Achievement in Welding Technology.

Local residents will also find accelerated automotive and welding instruction at WNC this spring. Ray Hockemier will teach an accelerated welding class January 15 through May 1, offering students a daytime college schedule. The class meets 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. four days a week, to provide the equivalent of two years of welding training, minus the general education component. At the end of the class, students may test to become certified welders, according to Linda Devon, a WNC grant manager. Through a Trade Adjustments Assistant Community College Career Training grant, WNC was able to purchase new equipment for students to use during the class.

Students will spend 45 minutes in the classroom each day, followed by time in the lab welding, Devon said. “There will also be instruction in the lab, and every day they will be learning something new and practicing that. We’ll give them the experience that they need to get their foot in the door,” she said.

For students wishing to gain the skills to perform a variety of automotive brake jobs and additional preparation for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) certification, Randy Sharp is offering AUTO 145, Auto Brakes, this spring. It will meet 6 to 9:55 p.m., Tuesdays and Thursdays. The brakes class will focus on the theory, diagnosis and service of drum, disc and anti-lock braking systems; brake component machining; hydraulic component reconditioning; friction, and hardware replacement. Many students choose to work on their own cars, but Sharp said there is at least one donated vehicle available for students to work on.

David Steiger, WNC director of Economic Development, said he is expecting local residents to seize the opportunity to learn job skills that can be used locally or elsewhere. “The auto and welding labs are assets to the college and community, and let’s take advantage of them,” he said.

Go to for online registration information. The WNC spring semester begins Tuesday, Jan. 22.

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Applied Technology Student Ben Fabel in Class    
Applied Technology Student Ben Fabel in Class    
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