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Tech grant aimed at nuclear plant welders
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North Georgia Technical College recently received a $119,000 grant that will help local welding students land high-paying jobs in the nuclear energy field.

The grant from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission will provide scholarships for 30 students in the school’s pipe welder technical certificate program.

Vicki Nichols, vice president of academic affairs at North Georgia Tech, said there are several nuclear power plants in the region that need qualified welders.

“This grant will afford us the resources we need to meet the demand for this training in the Northeast Georgia area,” she said.

Ronnie Ayers, a North Georgia Tech welding instructor, said the grant will give the nuclear welding field a boost at a time when its work force is aging and jobs are plentiful.

“With the building of additional nuclear and power plants around the country, we’re seeing an increased need for people to move into that work force,” he said. “... There are a maze of pipes everywhere (in nuclear plants) and all of these pipes must be put together.”

Graduates of North Georgia Tech’s nuclear pipe welding program can start off at $25 an hour, Ayers said. Only experienced welders are eligible to enroll in the certificate program.

Ayers said the grant will offset some of students’ costs.

“Depending upon the student’s need, it could pay for tuition or for supplies, like a welding helmet and gloves and protective wear that they would use,” he said. “It could pay for on-campus housing, as well.”