Getting technical certifications can be difficult — and expensive. That's why Georgia Northwestern Technical College offers Youth Success Academy, a four-week welding certification course, free of charge for qualifying residents of Walker, Catoosa, Dade, Chattooga and Floyd counties.
GNTC youth specialist Tammy Pence said such programs can typically cost $2,000.
The Youth Success Academy also pays for all equipment, including welding tools and steel-toed boots, which the students are allowed to keep at the conclusion of the program, provided they complete it.
The next academy starts July 17.
People between the ages of 18 and 24 who have a high school diploma or GED and also live below the school's income restriction for the class are eligible to attend the program for free. The income limit is based on numerous factors, including family income, work history, housing and more. Pence said each application is reviewed on a case-by-case basis.
"We need to give students the opportunities to receive training they might not be able to pay for out of pocket," she said. "Lots of kids around here have wanted to do this but haven't had the opportunity to do so."
The program also provides a transportation stipend to qualifying students who need transportation, and can accommodate child care needs on campus.
Specifically, the program certifies participants in MIG and TIG welding, two forms of electrical arc welding which Pence said are enough to qualify someone for entry-level welding positions.
At the conclusion of the classes, the Youth Success Academy will either help certified students find work in the region or help them sign up to obtain a full welding degree through the school.
"I get phone calls weekly about job openings," said Jeremiah Cooper, the welding instructor for the program. "Chattanooga, Dalton and Ringgold are all on the upswing for jobs opening up. I'd say just about 100 percent of the kids through the program either go out and find a job or join the full program. Many of them do both."
Cooper and Pence said local companies like Curbs Plus, Munroe Inc. and Roper Corporation have all hired certified welders out of the program for entry-level positions.
Class sizes are limited, but Pence said even if a class fills up, students that didn't make it in are short-listed for the next possible class, which can happen as soon as two weeks after one concludes.
Anyone interested in signing up or seeing if they qualify for free admittance to the program can contact Tammy Pence at 706-764-3725 or firstname.lastname@example.org.