In 2007, Weld Training Instructor Dave Dybdal decided that the two training booths he was running in the shop weren’t enough. With the backing of Human Resources Director Scott Arndt and then CEO Paul Schmidgall, Dybdal was able to transform a storage shed on the Westmor property into a state-of-the-art training center to give current and new employees the opportunity to learn the latest welding technologies.
Training welders in-house allows Westmor to develop a large enough pool of talent within the company to meet its own demand. Depending on the certification, getting trained takes 1-6 six weeks, much shorter than the typical 9 month programs offered at area technical schools. Dybdal explains, “We can train so quickly because we specialize the training to the area that our employees are going to work in.”
The facility is fully dedicated towards educating welders, operating separately from the production shops. It includes a break room, a classroom, and a shop with 9 weld training stations. Dybdal states, “Yes, it is an investment for the company, but we’re a lot farther ahead than most other places. Either you step up and invest in training your people and get them to the next level, or you’re going to go under eventually.”
Welding methods taught at the facility include Shielded Metal Arc, Gas Metal Arc, Flux Cored Arc, Gas Tungsten Arc, and Submerged Arc. Thirty percent of the training is spent in the classroom learning theory, while the other seventy percent is spent in the lab getting one-on-one instruction. Dybdal is a Certified Weld Educator and is qualified to administer tests and award certifications. Students earn welding certifications from ASME and AWS. As they gain experience in the shop, welders have the opportunity to revisit the training center and add to their skill, gaining higher and more varied certifications.
Dybdal’s responsibilities also include “training the trainers” within the company. He works with part-time trainers at multiple divisions, equipping them with the tools they need to teach new employees basic welding techniques. The vision of the Welding Training Center to invest in its students goes hand in hand with Westmor’s culture of opportunity. Personal improvement is encouraged and hard work is rewarded.