Students in the University of West Alabama’s welding programs gain hands-on experience using state-of-the-art equipment to learn the art of welding.

Students in the University of West Alabama’s welding certificate program recently received a boost of confidence when officials from a national shipbuilding operation visited campus to assess their skills. When tested, 75 percent of the students passed the test and were offered a job with Huntington Ingalls Industries.

Huntington Ingalls Industries is America’s largest military shipbuilding company and a provider of professional services to partners in government and industry. The company intends to hire approximately 2,000 employees in the next year, and several UWA graduates intend to be among those hired.

Students at UWA who passed the recent assessment were offered jobs at the company’s Pascagoula, Miss., location, Ingalls Shipbuilding. There, they specialize in surface combatants, amphibious assault and transport, Coast Guard Cutters and fleet support. The location spans 800 acres and maintains about 11,500 employees.

Ingalls Shipbuilding and a sister company in Virginia combined have built more ships in more ship classes than any other U.S. naval shipbuilder. For this level of productivity, there is room only for the most specialized and highly-skilled, trained craftsmen. UWA faculty bear this in mind when designing curriculum for such programs.

“We work diligently to maintain communications and collaborations with industry partners to ensure that our students have the absolute best training possible so they can be first in line for the jobs and careers they want,” explained Dr. Donnie Cobb, professor of computer information systems and director of the university’s Center for Workforce Development. “We tailor our programs to meet the needs of area industries by providing the skills and training necessary for our graduates and certificate holders to transition seamlessly from the classroom and lab to the workplace.”

J.D. Pruitt leads the instruction of UWA’s welding courses and said that students are gaining the skills necessary for many different opportunities for gainful employment.

“I am very pleased with the students’ performance and their skill level at the end of this year’s welding program,” Pruitt said. “The welding industry is in desperate need of trained welders, and I look forward to teaching many more students the needed skills to acquire positions with companies like Ingalls Shipbuilding.”

UWA offers a short certificate in welding through the College of Business and Technology, and it is one of several technical associate and certificate programs that offers hands-on training that immediately prepares students for the workforce. This type of offering is what sets UWA apart as the leader in economic and workforce development for the region, as such training is designed specifically to meet the needs of business and industry in Alabama’s Black Belt.

“UWA is the only four-year university in Alabama that offers these technical training programs,” Cobb said. “We offer opportunities in technical areas that directly meet the needs of our area, and that speaks volumes for UWA’s commitment to empowering the region.”

To learn more about UWA’s welding certificate program and opportunities to enter the workforce with the skills necessary, contact J.D. Pruitt by phone at 205-652-3488 or by email at