Welding instructor Chris Beaman discusses some of the equipment available to students Tuesday at a new facility at the Somerset Career & Technical Center at Madison Area Memorial High School. The center houses eight student welding booths. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

MADISON — A new space was unveiled Tuesday at the Somerset Career & Technical Center that will allow more students to train as welders and become attractive candidates in a trade that officials say is in dire need of skilled workers.

The center is located at Madison Area Memorial High School and it now includes an eight-booth welding lab that was built to accommodate 16 students who will have the opportunity to learn the trade and earn certification from the American Welding Society.

The welding lab was first announced last December. At that time 12 students participated in the program, which was housed at Cianbro in Pittsfield, and another 18 students were on a waiting list.

“Not only will this new welding lab reduce the SCTC student wait list, the program plans to serve adult learners in the coming years,” Tracie Travers, vice president of work force development at Jobs for Maine’s Graduates, said in a statement. “This facility will also meet the need for community partners to be able to upskill their employees.”

David Dorr, director of the technical center, said Maine Department of Labor statistics show there are about 200 openings for welders annually in the state, adding that “the need for welders is huge.”

Isaac Ouellette, a sophomore at Madison Area Memorial High School, welds last December in the Somerset Career & Technical Center at the Madison school. Officials on Tuesday unveiled a new facility at the center that will be used to teach and train students in welding. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

After seeing over a dozen students on the waiting list year after year, Dorr decided last year to look for opportunities to expand the program to allow for more participation.


Although space was sparse at Cianbro, the Madison high school had an opening: the school’s vacant metal shop.

Early contributions to the welding lab included a state grant to cover the cost of equipment, booths and other material.

The technical center works closely with Cianbro, he said, and the construction firm “normally hires some of our students each year.”

Other students find welding jobs locally or go to manufacturers in the state.

“The focus on career and technical education has increased the interest in the skilled trades,” Dorr said. “We have seen a slight decrease in our numbers because of the pandemic.”

The technical center is housed at Skowhegan Area High School with satellite locations in Madison and Pittsfield. Around 300 students from the Skowhegan high school, Carrabec High School in North Anson, Maine Central Institute in Pittsfield, Madison and Upper Kennebec Valley Jr./Sr. High School in Bingham participate in the different programs.


A regional study conducted in 2019 showed 95% of students who participate in career and technical programs graduate, Dorr said.

Through the Somerset technical center’s partnership with Jobs for Maine’s Graduates, students are provided with work-based learning opportunities such as apprenticeships and job shadowing.

The welding lab in Madison includes the addition of a wall for fire protection and upgrades to the electrical systems to accommodate the power required to run eight new welding machines.

Welding instructor Chris Beaman stands in one of eight welding booths Tuesday at a new welding teaching facility at the Somerset Career and Technical Center at Madison Area Memorial High School. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

The lab cost approximately $400,000 in equipment and facilities work, an amount that was raised through private donations, foundations, grants and in-kind donations.

Travers said the collaboration involving JMG, the technical center and Madison high school is “vital in the success of this work force development opportunity for Somerset County students.”

“Not only will it help meet demands in our work force but it will give students the opportunity to earn credentials and certifications before graduating from high school,” she said.

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