Among those walking across the stage at Vance-Granville Community College commencement exercises on May 13 were two students who became the first-ever graduates of the college’s Associate in Applied Science degree program in Welding Technology.
VGCC has offered a three-semester diploma program in Welding for more than 40 years but added the two-year degree option in 2015. J. Grant Stoner of Macon and Kyle S. Vipperman of Raleigh both completed the degree in its first year.
Vipperman started the new degree program just as he was completing the VGCC Welding diploma in the summer of 2015. “I decided to continue because it seemed like a good opportunity for this industry and a good tool to advance to a supervisory position,” he said. Vipperman already had some of the required general education credits from another community college he attended, putting him closer to completion. “When you get a two-year degree, you get to complete many more real-world practical welding projects while you’re still a student,” he added. He also had the opportunity to observe an Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) examination. Vipperman plans to seek a job in the industry, perhaps in the growing Asheville area. After he gains more experience, he would like to teach welding.
He has praise for the positive educational experience at VGCC. “My instructors really know the subject, they provide you with personal attention, and they teach from their own experience,” Vipperman noted.
For his part, Stoner said he has had “a wonderful time with the welding program at VGCC. I’ve gained a much deeper understanding of welding and metal fabrication than I ever thought possible.”
Stoner is currently looking for a position in a machine shop, and he is also looking forward to doing repair and light fabrication work with his own rig. “The doors are open for me now,” he said. “My time here at VGCC has given me the tools to come closer to perfecting my skills.”
The two-year (66-credit-hour) curriculum provides additional instruction for entry-level technicians in the welding and metalworking industries. Welding graduates holding an associate degree are eligible for a wide range of jobs in construction, manufacturing, fabrication, sales and quality control. The addition of the AAS degree program was a requirement of VGCC’s acceptance of a Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) Grant, awarded in September 2013. With the help of the $1.75 million grant, the largest single competitive grant in VGCC history, the college is developing and enhancing innovative training programs for advanced manufacturing careers.
Registration is currently ongoing for VGCC’s fall semester, which begins in August. For more information on the Welding program, call program head Rusty Pace at (252) 738-3375.