First Metallica Scholars grads

By David Murray

With grant funding, a Michigan college launched an intensive welding program to get more people trained faster for in-demand job.

Edwin Ponce Juarez went to work in a distribution center warehouse after graduating from high school, but he knew there were opportunities for better-paying jobs in the professional trades.

He became a “Metallica Scholar,” gaining in-demand skills through the welding program at Grand Rapids Community College (GRCC) in Michigan.

“I needed a new direction,” he said. “This program was perfect for me. I really enjoy learning with my hands. The best part of this program is that it’s fun! I love TIG (tungsten inert gas) welding, and by learning so many different types of welding, I know exactly the type of work I want in the future.“

Juarez will graduate from the welding program debt-free, thanks, in part, to funds from the Metallica Scholars program.

GRCC is one of 10 colleges selected nationwide for the program. The legendary metal band’s All Within My Hands Foundation teamed up with the American Association of Community Colleges on the project, aimed at providing workforce training for community college students and reinvesting in cities where the band has toured.

The first cohort of 14 students in the program graduated on August 12.

Focus on welding

Edwin Ponce Juarez has completed welding training at GRCC thanks, in part, to Metallica Scholars.

GRCC used the $100,000 grant to launch an intensive welding program targeting nontraditional students. It takes less time to complete than traditional courses, and it also features smaller class sizes with flexible scheduling options and career preparation assistance.

Kiara Contreras is among the students who received a Metallica Scholars scholarship.

She spent a year and a half on a traditional college path but wanted something different. Her dad and uncle are welders and hearing about all the things she could make piqued her interest.

“The hands-on environment is what really works for me,” she said. “I love that we are learning so many different types of welding — and the small class size too. I like being a woman in welding. It surprises people, I think, but I love it.”

GRCC is partnering with local employers so students can participate in site visits, employee panels and mentoring to help them determine if welding is a good fit for their career goals. Each student will participate in individualized career preparation with GRCC to ensure they are “job-ready” upon completion of their welding license.

Metallica established the All Within My Hands Foundation in 2017 to invest in the people and places that have supported the band. The foundation previously funded efforts to fight hunger and provide emergency community aid, and is expanding its mission to include support for career and technical education.

David Murray

is director of communications at Grand Rapids Community College in Michigan.

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