Passing the torch, and sparking more careers in welding

New machinery for Michigan’s Industrial Arts Institute, via Enbridge donation, means more welders for a hungry industry

While a number of new industries are on the rise across North America, there are some that just will never go out of style.

Welding is one of our world’s cornerstone trades, and it’s used to produce approximately 50% of all products in the United States. Apprentices interested in the trade know they can get top-tier education and experience at Industrial Arts Institute in northern Michigan.

“We have students coming to us from as far away as Alaska and California,” says Mark Dombroski, Executive Director at Industrial Arts Institute. “Our goal for them is to be employable and find work to fill the need in the welding skills trade.”

The program in Onaway, MI is comprehensive, but in 19 short weeks and 760 hours of work experience, entry-level tradesmen emerge and are ready to answer the growing demand for welders in the industry.

Dombroski describes the program as “bootcamp style.”

To continue offering industry-level machinery and training, the Industrial Arts Institute sought out to secure additional Power Wave welding equipment in 2020. Purchases like these are just an example of how Dombroski and the team at Industrial Arts Institute anticipate industry needs and react to best prepare their students.

“While we know all of our welding machines and other materials we use are commonly found in the industry, we needed to find more recent equipment that students will encounter eventually in the future,” says Dombroski.

Enbridge is committed to improving lives in communities near our operations and projects—including the Line 5 pipeline, which meets 55% of Michigan propane demand in a state where 320,000 households rely on propane as their primary home heating fuel.

In 2020, Enbridge provided $25,000 to the Industrial Arts Institute to help purchase an additional five different welding machines with Power Wave equipment.

Now, nine Industrial Arts Institute students are able to learn and practice welding techniques at one time—up from the previous limit of four.

When it first began in 2014, the Industrial Arts Institute offered training in several trades, like electrical, construction, and plumbing. When Dombroski joined the organization in 2017, action was taken to focus efforts on one trade the school excelled at, leading to the introduction of a welding program.

Fast forward to now, and the program boasts a placement rate in excess of 90%, largely due to career fairs held prior to graduation.

Without the recent purchase of Power Wave equipment, Dombroski says the student experience would quickly fall behind.

“It would slow things down here tremendously—students would miss out on the opportunity to experiment and get proficient in a specific type of welding that could have been successful for them.”

As a non-profit, the Industrial Arts Institute relies on the surrounding community to make progress. Businesses, employers and other supporters can donate to the Industrial Arts Institute via funds or materials year-round.

With a career of over 35 years in public education, Dombroski thrives on seeing the development of students from Day 1 to graduation day in the welding program.

“It’s great to see how quickly we can take students from zero to a career. We give them the opportunity to do what they want in life because they gain the skills, the means and the job to do so in a relatively short period of time.”