In a classroom inside the new Workforce Center of Excellence on the city's Southwest Side the students are using virtual techniques to learn more efficiently.
Lincoln Electric’s Steve Hoenes guides the students through prompts on the screen and makes sure the helmet is fitted correctly. Before long, they are welding virtually and a score is produced seconds after a student finishes.
"The difference with the virtual system is we can do 20 to 30 samples in an hour or two hour period, where in a real-life environment they're lucky to do four or five a day," said Hoenes.
Lincoln Electric’s machine was born out of the military’s need to quickly teach students to weld. Hoenes said that on average, students will learn to weld 35 percent faster than using older methods.
This class is just one of many that will take place at the new Workforce Center of Excellence. The Alamo Colleges will run a variety of programs, from the Just in Time manufacturing training that links students directly to employment, to an academy for high school students to earn college credit; there is even an Eagle Ford Shale boot camp.
"We've been piloting parts of it, we've been developing the infrastructure for it, and developing the partnerships in the community that are needed to make this model work and all the pieces are in place,” said Federico Zaragoza, vice chancellor of economic and workforce development at the Alamo Colleges.
Zaragoza said the next step is launching additional programs, with an aerospace program beginning in March.
Port San Antonio is a partner with the Alamo Colleges; Port leaders donated nearly 30 acres of land near the East Kelly Railyard, and the building near General Hudnell and Quintana Road where the center is located.
The programs are giving a variety of people – from teens to people in their 50’s – an optimistic view of the future, where technical training has taken on a very modern approach.