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SKC welding class certifies ten; class expected to return next fall

By Lailani Upham

(L to R) SKC Vice President for Academic Affairs Sandra Boham, Michael DeFrance, Shawn Shourds, Arlyn Matt, Jay Sorrell, Sam Croft, and Welding instructor Marvin Courville. (Courtesy photo) (L to R) SKC Vice President for Academic Affairs Sandra Boham, Michael DeFrance, Shawn Shourds, Arlyn Matt, Jay Sorrell, Sam Croft, and Welding instructor Marvin Courville. (Courtesy photo)

PABLO — Ten weeks and earning 15 credits is what it took for five students at Salish Kootenai College to receive their American welding Society certification last quarter.

The welding course was the first offered at SKC.

The ironworking course was developed from a series of tribal welding trainings that started in 2009 in Browning by Norman Moses, Nez Perce, according to SKC Welding Instructor Marvin Courville.

“The original idea was that we needed more ironworkers and since the Native American Ironworker Training Program in Chicago had ended, we wanted to continue to be able to use the tribes as another source of available applicants,” Courville stated.

“I took the iron working program because I wanted to for awhile, but the class was always so far away,” said SKC welding graduate Arlyn Matt.

Matt said when he heard the program was being offered at SKC he jumped on the opportunity.

Courville said the Local #598 Ironworkers in Kalispell joined up with Spokane Local 314 Ironworkers shortly after the National Native American Ironworkers program ended and has had a long successful history with the area tribal members and nonmembers on reservations.

“We have had some very successful ironworkers come from these geographic areas through the Chicago program. This success, we wanted to continue and are still trying to do that today by bringing the training to the local area. The need for such a training program is that we are always looking for good ironworkers and have traditionally found the best applicants are those who come from rural areas where a strong work ethic is part of their upbringing,” Courville stated.

Matt says he plans to put his welding experience to work at the 314 Union in Spokane.

Matt says the 15-credit winter quarter course was a tough challenge and intense at the same time, but fun at the same time. “What I liked the least is from the class is probably the drive in the snowy, icy roads, Matt added.

Tom Tanner, District council organizer for the International Ironworkers and Courville’s supervisor said after the Native American Ironworkers lost the funding, a tribal outreach was launched through International Ironworkers to help continue ironworking training. He said he hired Courville six years ago not only as an ironworker with the organization but an instructor as well.

“We’ve been training on the Colville, Blackfeet, Umtilla and now the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Reservation,” Tanner stated.

“As for the development of the course, it has been a bit of an evolving piece of work that continues to grow and modify with each course. As the industry continues to move forward so does our training. There is always the traditional entry method of pre-applying and then there is this way that after the applicant completes this course they are offered automatic entry in future courses. This course will give them a head start when they start their career in construction,” added Tanner.

“I do recommend the class to others; it’s a good trade to get into,” Matt said. He added that he and the other students made it through a tough struggle in the ten weeks; however they had each other’s backs. “We was all behind one another keeping each others heads up when we thought times were too tough.”

According to Tanner it is the International Ironworkers hope to obtain funding from the Department of Labor to move forward to reestablish the Native American Indian Ironworkers Training Program and create a partnership with SKC to house the program.

“This sort of national program partnered with an International Union would not only benefit both partners, but also would open the door to Native Americans from across the country to a training program that had 40 years of success before Congress terminated its funding,” Tanner stated.

The SKC Welding course is expected to be offered again next fall.

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