WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. — Penn College in Williamsport recently unveiled its brand new welding lab expansion. The expansion added 35,000 square feet and new pieces of equipment to the facility. The multi-million dollar project now makes this one of the largest educational welding labs in the country.
"This project started because we found out that some other schools were doing some stuff with fabrication that we couldn't do, so we decided to add on if we could," said welding instructor Michael Allen.
"I think it's incredible, all of the space options are the best part. There used to be robots all crammed up in one area with all the welders, and the plasma cutters and everything was going on at once, whereas now there is more space for everything," said sophomore Sarah Stafford.
This new expansion includes classrooms, robots, and machinery. One of the new machines is the electron beam welder. According to the college, this beam welder is the only one being used for educational purposes in the United States. The college hopes that these new additions will attract prospective students.
"Long-term goal is to basically make sure that we can increase our enrollment within the next couple of years to bringing in about 60 more welding students per year," Allen said.
The American Welding Society estimates a shortage of 385,000 welders by 2023, but Penn College hopes to ease that shortage with this new expansion.
"Hopefully, by what we are doing here at this point in time, we will be able to help the industry and produce quality students to fall right into these jobs that they need," Allen added.
"Specializing in the electron beam welder, the laser welder, the specialized welding, and the expansion lab helps kind of narrow down basically what you want to do, and it's helping a lot," said senior Natalie Rhoades.
College officials say everything will be operational and ready to go sometime during this current semester.