The San Diego College of Continuing Education has been selected for a pilot program on board the USS Midway Aircraft Carrier for welders to help with restoration of the ship and museum.
As part of SDCCE’s tuition-free welding certificate program, students can gain real-world experience. The pilot will run now through Dec. 13.
“We are so excited to have San Diego College of Continuing Education on board the USS Midway,” said Rear Admiral Terry Kraft, CEO of the USS Midway Museum. “This 78-year-old ship is a national icon and to be able to introduce young people to the work we do to maintain the Midway is fantastic.”
Student welders from SDCCE will fabricating new pedestrian guard rails and gates encompassing the Midway’s flight deck and assisting with various repair and preservation projects while aboard, a statement from the college reads.
Welding on the USS Midway is Jasmin Hernandez, 19, Mark Silva, 23, Ariana Espinoza, 23, and Liam Mcgeath, 24. At SDCCE’s 100,000-square-foot welding facility at the Educational Cultural Complex, students prepare for a career in the shipping and aerospace industries and specialize in one to five free welding certificates: shielding metal arc, gas metal, flux cored arc, gas tungsten arc and pipe welding.
Inspired by her late grandfather — a former welder at NASSCO — Espinoza said she is following in his footsteps to start a fabrication business.
“I did not know what I wanted to do but I was always passionate about learning how to weld and I know this industry needs more women and that I am making my grandpa proud,” she said. “Other schools cost a lot of money, there was no way I could pay for classes and have time to work. But learning here on the Midway from SDCCE, I know I want my career to take off here.”
The USS Midway was commissioned right after World War II, maintains most of its original build, and is undergoing major renovations from electrical to metal fabrication, to preserve the ship’s 50-year history.
“San Diego College of Continuing Education’s welding department has long made an impact in the community of Southeastern San Diego with its contributions to the Educational Cultural Complex Civil Rights History Museum, the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Parade, the restoration of ‘The Black Family’ Statue and now we are proudly embarking on the critical work to preserve the USS Midway Museum, a landmark of our great nation,” said SDCCE President Tina M. King.
Welders in San Diego County are earning an average of $73,531 annually, according to the California Employment Development Department, which projects 42,600 job openings for welders, cutters, solderers, and brazers each year, on average, over the decade.
SDCCE and the Midway have plans to expand the partnership to more students enrolled in the college’s HVAC and plumbing certificate programs in the new year.
City News Service contributed to this article.