By Margaret Medonis, Teacher
Avenal State Prison
Inmates at Avenal State Prison are working toward a future of contributing to society thanks to the institution’s welding certification program.
Instructor Carlos Orosco welds work ethics, a good attitude, and a sense of responsibility to teach inmates practical job skills, giving them the ability to earn $20 to $40 an hour upon returning to their communities.
The 12-month course is based on the studies and recommendations of the National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER) and American Welding Society (AWS).
Inmates work through the curriculum’s three levels at their own pace, moving forward once they have proven their competency through NCCER’s written and performance assessments.
In the first level, they learn welding safety, welding equipment and shielding metal arc welding basics.
In the second level, they learn symbols, prints, material characteristics, gas metal arc welding, flux core arc welding and gas tungsten arc welding basics.
In the third level, they focus on advanced pipe welding using all four arc welding methods.
The inmates learn how to work collaboratively as well as independently.
“We try to encourage each other as well as to challenge one another in the welding class,” instructor Orosco said. “Collaboration is of utmost importance in a profession that involves cutting metal with a band saw, plasma torch or oxygen fuel.”
The welding program has had six graduates in the past year, but hopes to graduate many more in the future. By completing the yearlong course, the student will have the critical fabrication and welding skills required to be competitive in the welding industry.
“We are welding students, trying to better ourselves for our loved ones back home,” said one inmate enrolled in the class.