PCC Nearing Start of Welding Building Construction Project

PCC Welding Technology Department Chair Keith Kinlaw, right, examines the results of a weld and explains them to a pair of students.

WINTERVILLE—Pitt Community College is preparing for the start of work on a new Welding Technology Building that will provide the school with much-needed instructional space for what is presently the state’s largest welding program.

Earlier this year, during an on-campus meeting between county and college leaders, PCC President Lawrence Rouse thanked Pitt County Commissioners for agreeing to support construction of the building. The county is funding $16.4 million of the total $17.7 million needed to complete the project.

“Thank you for increasing our ability to produce welders,” Rouse told commissioners. “You may not be aware of it, but we have the largest welding program in North Carolina. Graduates from the program are finding jobs in the area with good pay, too.”

Keith Kinlaw, chair of PCC’s Welding Technology Department, says the skills students develop through the welding program can help them secure employment anywhere.

“Our part of the state has persistently seen a shortage of skilled welders, but welders are pretty much in demand anywhere you go,” he said. “Thankfully, many of our students stay in eastern North Carolina after graduation, so we’re definitely doing our part to serve the community’s workforce needs.”

Kinlaw says the vast majority of his program’s graduates find employment immediately after completing their studies. In fact, many of them have jobs lined up before graduating.

“We really don’t even have to make phone calls asking companies to visit our program and meet with students,” Kinlaw said. “Many times, representatives from local industry come by our welding shop and pick out future welders for their organizations.”

PCC’s welding enrollment during the 2024 Spring Semester was approximately 400 students, with 185 taking courses in the Masonry/Welding Building on Pitt’s main campus and the remainder spread out at five high school feeder programs. Though the Masonry/Welding Building no longer hosts masonry courses, its 12,500 square feet provides space for just 44 welding booths, a fabrication area and two classrooms.

“Our program has been so restricted for the past 10 years due to lack of space, so it’s been exciting to think about the opportunities the new building presents,” Kinlaw said. “There’s programming we’ve wanted to add over the years but couldn’t because of space constraints. Being able to finally explore those options, knowing we’ll have the ability to offer them and further enhance training for our students, has been a welcome change.”

Pitt County Commissioners toured Pitt’s current welding facility two years ago. Following their visit, PCC Vice President of Finance/CFO Ricky Brown says the legislators expressed interest in funding a new, approximately 30,000 square foot building that features two fabrication shops and 96 welding booths, including space for robotic welding instruction.

“The welding skills we teach help keep industry in this area,” Kinlaw said. “Those organizations know they can lean on us for staffing and future growth.”

Brown said JKF Architecture created a design for PCC’s future welding building and it was approved by the North Carolina State Construction Office. He said college administrators will award the construction contract for the project in the coming weeks, with work to begin soon after. The building will be located near Pitt’s Minges-Overton Baseball Complex and is expected to be completed by November 2025.