Sowela training for high demand jobs such as welders - KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana

SOWELA training for high demand jobs such as welders

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Sometime soon there will be more construction jobs than qualified workers to fill them. That's the prediction from local economic developers.

Five thousand welders are needed. The average pay is around $40,000. One man behind the mask where welders train is 21-year-old Jacob Gragg. He's learning to weld at SOWELA.

"There's going to be lots of jobs and not enough people to fill them. So, hopefully, I'm one of them people to fill 'em," said Gragg.

When these young men finish the program at SOWELA, they'll likely be able to make between $24 and $32 an hour. SOWELA Technical Community College is working to meet massive training needs of Southwest Louisiana's economic boom.

Instructor Jonathan Darbonne is only 26 years old, but he's already pleased with his livelihood from welding.

"I made about $36,000 in my first year, but I only worked part of the year because I graduated. Since then, I've been upwards to $50,000 plus. The most I've ever been able to make in a year was about $72,000," said Darbonne.

He said his earnings allowed him to pay off student loans in three months.

"Welding is a huge priority. It's a huge craft that is needed in this area to keep the area running," he said.

Those at the Better Business Bureau B2B Breakfast got a sense of what's coming from Dr. Joe Fleishman.  

"There's going to come a day when you're going to be driving up and down the freeway and you are going to see that. They're going to need truck drivers like we've never had before and there's already a shortage. And we're trying to position ourselves to provide that," said Fleishman.

Local business owner Lollion Elmer, who attended the breakfast, is caught up in the excitement.

"It's like a miracle really," she said.

Elmer took time to tour the new machine shop at SOWELA. Elmer urges young people to jump on the opportunities.  

"Being the best you can be in that field, this is what it's all about," said Elmer.

And getting what SOWELA calls good jobs with great salaries for those trained and certified to perform them.

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