Steve Anderson, president and CEO of Forney Industries, is the third generation of the Forney family to lead the 80-year-old welding and metal-working company based in Ft. Collins, Colorado. A devoted supporter of trade schools and community colleges and a member of the Front Range Community College (FRCC) board of directors, Anderson recognizes the shortage in manufacturing education. He has dedicated his time and company resources to the college and its mission to train highly qualified welding professionals. Forney donates thousands of dollars, countless hours and various welding products to welding programs nationwide because he believes trade schools and community colleges are becoming a more popular option for students. He also feels that companies in the industry should pay it forward to ensure that students get the best training to keep the industry fresh.
According to the Colorado Community College System (CCCS), enrollment in community colleges has increased 28% since 2007. FRCC offers a two-year associate’s degree in welding technology. Students learn entry-level skills and train in a certified testing facility by expert welding instructors. In fact, a welding degree is one of the top degree programs within the CCCS, increasing 30.9% from 2011 to 2013. Women are fast becoming a mainstay in the industry. FRCC has noticed a steady increase in women interested in welding. In the last three years, they have seen the enrollment of female welders increase by 50% and the classes are now 15% women.
When the program started growing, FRCC reached out to Anderson. He quickly assessed the program and was eager to offer support. “Students are extremely excited to learn the art and business of welding. The instructors go above and beyond to support the students as they know how quickly these kids can be placed in jobs.” Anderson believes in the program’s mission and knew Forney could help. He decided to not only donate welding machines, but created starter kits that include a welding helmet, gloves, chipping hammer, MIG pliers, safety glasses and other necessities. These kits ensure students have the proper equipment to begin welding and learn with the correct tools.
It’s no surprise that so many are learning the trade, certified welders can earn as much as $75 an hour depending on the type of welding they do, the experience they have and location where they land a job. The industry is so hungry for certified welders that most welding programs struggle to retain students in their two-year welding programs because the opportunity for high-paying jobs is available before their certification is completed. “Parents should embrace their kid’s desire to attend a community college if that’s their chosen path,” adds Anderson, “and they need to encourage their kids to complete the entire program. Understanding the business is equally as important as knowing the trade. Programs like the one at FRCC offer business courses that complement the welding program.” Anderson stresses that it’s critical for companies like Forney to invest in the future of the industry.