Steve Giarusso, a welding training administrator and nondestructive examination manager with Thielsch Engineering Inc., has run a program for the R.I. Department of Labor and Training that teaches individuals receiving unemployment new skills.
Through a partnership with General Dynamics Electric Boat, Thielsch’s welding school – with the help of Giarusso, senior lead instructor Robert Wright and instructors Zachary Barner, Brian Moretti, Raymond Major and Dan McCann – has been producing skilled labor the company needs.
PBN: How and when did the partnership with Electric Boat come about?
GIARUSSO: Electric Boat first contacted us in 2011 to train ship fitters and tack welders. Thielsch had been training welding students since 2008. The fit was a natural one: Thielsch has a stellar reputation in the engineering industry and welder training was a complementary service to our engineering.
PBN: By the photos on the Thielsch Welder Training Program Facebook page, you have a lot of women participating, which is great to see! What is the breakdown in terms of men compared with women; first-job seekers compared with career changers; and older workers compared with younger job seekers?
GIARUSSO: We are thrilled at the number of women and minorities sent to our training classes by Electric Boat. The welding trade offers all people the opportunity to develop skills, create a meaningful career and earn a healthy paycheck.
PBN: What do you think surprises people most about the field of welding?
GIARUSSO: The biggest surprise for most people is the degree of hand-and-eye coordination required to weld. The skill is not as easy as it looks. This could explain why the rate of pay for Class A welders is quite high.
PBN: How many trainees have completed the seven-week program with Electric Boat since it began?
GIARUSSO: Since last summer, we trained 60 students. Electric Boat committed to sending Thielsch 200 students in 2022. The primary reason for the enormous jump is because of the quality of training each student receives. We have several former EB welders who are now seasoned instructors. They understand the working requirements at Electric Boat and are able to impress those lessons on students in their classes. Students leave our class setting and are immediately able to provide a meaningful contribution to Electric Boat’s production.
PBN: I understand you’ve added more classes due to increased demand. Why are you seeing an increased demand?
GIARUSSO: Electric Boat has strong demand for welders. Most of the employees they are hiring have no welding experience, yet want an opportunity for a career with a solid company at a better-than-competitive pay. Thielsch understands Electric Boat’s needs for trained welders. That is why we recently completed a buildout to double our training capacity. We are now able to train 40 students at one time, over two shifts.
Susan Shalhoub is a PBN contributing writer.
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