Lehigh Career & Technical Institute broke ground Thursday on a 12,000-square-foot addition that will house the school’s Welding Technology Center.
The $4.25 million project will double the program lab’s size, allowing LCTI to accommodate more students and evolve its program to include training with automated welding technologies.
The center will feature 11 additional welding booths so that 50 students can be trained simultaneously.
The new facility is part of ongoing efforts throughout the state to meet demand for skilled laborers in the manufacturing industry.
Manufacturers have been saying for many years that finding skilled workers is one of their top problems and welders are usually listed alongside of machinists as the most in-demand workers.
The need for welders is also expected to grow.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the demand for welders is expected to grow by 26 percent by 2020 making it one of the fastest growing professions in America.
It’s not the first school to invest in its welding program. In September, Bethlehem Vo-Tech installed a new $1.3 million welding lab.
Funding for these new welding training centers comes in part from Gov. Tom Wolf’s PAsmart initiative to expand career and technical education and training programs to grow jobs in northeast Pennsylvania.
A $50,000 grant from the Department of Education will help fund equipment purchases for the project.
“Pennsylvania’s economic future depends on a well-educated and highly-trained workforce,” said Eileen Cipriani, Department of Labor & Industry deputy secretary for workforce development. “The expansion of LCTI’s welding program will give students hands-on training for a career or to continue their education. The program also gives local employers a pipeline of talented workers.”
Pennsylvania is one of the top five states in the country with the highest demand for welding professionals. Earnings are also higher. In Pennsylvania the average wage for a welder is just under $43,000 per year. The national average is just over $40,000.
LCTI is Pennsylvania’s largest career and technical school, offering more than 45 skills-based programs. The welding Technology Center will serve high school and postsecondary students and is expected to open in the fall of 2020.