College of Southern Idaho’s welding program reaches full capacity every year, and students wait on a list to get in.
Local employers, meanwhile, are also crying for more trained workers, welding instructor Clay Wilkie said. There simply aren’t enough here.
“Usually we have more demand for our students than we have students,” he said.
Much of that has come with new construction around the state, especially in Mini-Cassia, he said. Wilkie expects demand to rise even more as McCain Foods begins construction on a $200 million plant expansion in Burley.
To help meet the need, CSI plans to start a welding program in Burley this fall.
“We’re going to try to offer it through the Cassia Regional Technical Center,” said Terry Patterson, instructional dean of career and technical education. A dual-credit course would be available for 16 high school students in a cohort program this fall.
“Theoretically, they could earn an intermediate technical certificate as a high school student,” Patterson said.
Besides training a future workforce, CSI aims to train existing Mini-Cassia employees through a nighttime program. He expects that companies such as McCain Foods, High Desert Milk and Fabri-Kal will need the additional training, which could be customized.
Southern Field Welding is one employer that supports CSI bringing in the Burley program.
“We would provide CSI here in Burley a lot of stainless steel,” general manager Blake Hollingsworth said. The scrap metal has been offered to other programs in the state already.
Mini-Cassia’s large demand for welders, he said, has to do with the extensive variety of businesses that use them — to build snow blowers, potato harvesters or industrial food-grade equipment, for example.
CSI accepts 25 new welding students per year at its Twin Falls campus. Patterson said the college may expand that by adding evening and Saturday classes.