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With increased class size, Kenton welding program expands
The increasingly popular welding program at Erie 1 BOCES Kenton Career & Technical Center has officially expanded after a significant capital project.

The expansion consisted of adding seven new welding booths, updating one booth, upgrading ventilation and electrical systems and renovating class space.

To help offset project expenses, Erie 1 BOCES received a $25,000 grant from the Western New York Regional Economic Development Council (WNYREDC), which supplied 20 percent of the estimated funds.

“With support from the Western New York Regional Economic Development Council, the Kenton Career & Technical Center is well underway to becoming an exciting career hub for future welders,” said Jeff Belt, WNYREDC co-chair and SolEpoxy CEO. “The expanded facility will help attract students for training, positioning them to fill in-demand jobs, which keeps our young people and our companies in the region.”

Erie 1 BOCES sought to accommodate the need for additional resources due to ballooning class sizes, according to Kenton welding instructor Frank Rosiek.

“I have 28 juniors now, and I had 24 the year before, so we needed to expand the shop size,” he stated. “We were seeing more people interested in welding. The demand out there is huge for skilled workers; coming out of here with training, these students can get an entry-level job and develop their skills.”

Average class sizes previously hovered around 14 to 16 students, with 15 booths available. A larger class size meant forcing some students to double up on booths and wait for one another, thus cutting down on individual training time.

The additional booths are now helping increase student seat time, Rosiek said.

Two senior welding students – who worked in the old lab last year as juniors – agreed.

“A lot of different things have improved,” Steven Bachman, a high school senior from Grand Island, pointed out. “My work ethic has improved and I can focus more on what I’m doing.”

“It’s a change for the better,” Michael Ellegate, also a senior from Grand Island, added. “I’m spending more time in the booth.”

With more and more skilled workers approaching retirement age, the demand for replacements is increasing, Rosiek noted. As a result, the push to find those replacements is becoming all the more critical.

The current shop space at Kenton was opened up and converted into two labs: one for welding and another for light manufacturing.

The welding labs simulate the real world and meet building and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) codes, resulting in increased program enrollment by up to 16 students per year.

Even with the additional space, Rosiek still has a waiting list for juniors to join the program.

“The word’s getting out there,” he remarked.

To address this, Career and Technical Education (CTE) officials are considering two possible solutions: add even more booths or expand the welding program in mid-session.

“This expansion project has given us the capacity to continue growing the shop space further due to the upgraded ventilation and electrical system,” noted Michael Capuana, director of CTE programs and services at Erie 1 BOCES.

Capuana concluded, “We would like to thank the Western New York Regional Economic Development Council for their generous contribution to our project. We will continue to work to accommodate future welding classes and make sure every student has an opportunity to succeed.”
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