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One of the biggest welding colleges in the area flexed its car muscles Thursday night during an American Welding Society function showcasing race cars and welding demonstrations at Owens Community College.
The northwest Ohio chapter of the American Welding Society had its 18th Annual Motorsports Welding program from 6 to 9 p.m. at Owens' Perrysburg Township location. It had about 30 different competition vehicles, welding demonstrations, and a virtual welding station.
For Dick West, former chairman of the American Welding Society local chapter, the goal for the program was to get younger people interested in a job in welding. He said there is a real shortage in welders.
"We have 300 to 400 in our welding program - the biggest in the area," said Bob Williams, Owens instructor. "People that want jobs call us."
Lincoln Electric Co. welding instructor Karl Hoes spoke at the event. He is a welder for some NASCAR vehicles.
"People want to learn about the materials used in Motorsports, what the latest equipment is, or new techniques," he said. "You never quit learning with welding, I'm happy to pass on what I've learned."
Mr. Hoes goes to NASCAR races at Daytona and Talladega to work on cars that need emergency repairs before race day. They come up from rule violations, or just need altering and he will weld the car to how it should be.
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The American Welding Society had an Indy car, several truck racing vehicles, and other competition cars that draw a crowd. Mr. West said they usually get about 1,500 people checking out cars at the annual event, but that would be down because of the heavy rain Thursday.
Virtual welding had a long line most of the night that let visitors get the welding experience without actually doing it. Derek Meller was able to put on the fake welding protection over his face which showed him a visual of him actually welding and moved a simulation to see if he can weld.
"It was my first time welding, yea it was exciting," the Owens welding student in his first semester said. "An 88 is good, and I got an 86 on my first time. I like doing stuff with my hands, it is easy to learn, too."
The big hurdle for Owens instructor Tony Duris is keeping students in school to get their degree before leaving for the workforce.
"Students take three or four classes and know the skills and then get entry level jobs and don't come back," Mr. Duris said.