First classes for Onaway welding school start in May

ONAWAY – A welding school founded by an Onaway business owner will start accepting applications for its first batch of students soon.

Industrial Arts Institute will start its first 15-week welding program in August, and will hold an open house on May 29, Executive Director Melinda Hambleton said. Students will have an opportunity to become certified in four welding techniques. At the end of the program, they’ll have a chance to show off their skills and connect with employers.

Moran Iron Works owner Tom Moran said his company started its own education program more than a decade ago, and it’s served the company well. Northern Michigan needs an education option for what he called the “worker bee” portion of the country: those who cut wood for furniture, mold plastic parts for automobiles or weld together products. He believes these people have been left behind by colleges and universities.

“We built a business model where for $12,000 to $15,000 these people can go through that class and make $2 to $4 an hour more instantly, and get placement,” he said. “Number one, you’ll get a job, and number two, you can actually pay for the education.”

Moran said he located the institute in Onaway because it’s where his company is, and he believes it to be a central location for Northern Michigan.

“We can provide a value for high school graduates, as well as people that are thinking of changing their careers, and raise the standard of living in our community, from Alpena all the way to Cheboygan and Mackinaw City,” he said.

The institute’s first comprehensive industrial welding program starts Aug. 4, and applications will be accepted from April 21 through May 9, according to the institution website. Registration dates are June 16 through June 30.

Students will spend 40 hours a week in the program, with 80 percent of it doing welding in the lab, Hambleton said. They’ll also learn “soft skills,” like resume writing and what employers expect of their workers.

Leon Nash, lead educator, said students will start learning gas welding, and will have an opportunity to become certified in shielded metal arc welding, gas metal arc welding, flux core arc welding and gas tungsten arc welding.

When the program’s over, the institute will host a talent expo where graduates can showcase their work, Hambleton said. The institute will invite manufacturers to meet the students and potentially interview them for a job.

It’s $12,200 for the 15-week class, Hambleton said. The institute is working on developing scholarships, and for now prospective students can finance their class through Awakon Federal Credit Union. The institute is also working to become an accredited school so it can accept Pell grants and other forms of student aid, but it’ll take some time.

Industrial Arts Institute is partnering with the nearby Walter and Mae Reuther Family Education Center to provide housing for students, Hambleton said.

“The leadership team of IAI and Moran Iron Works are very proud that we’re able to bring this very exciting opportunity to Northeast Michigan, but also to contribute to building a talented and skilled workforce to the manufacturing industry,” she said.

Jordan Travis can be reached via email at or by phone at 358-5688. Follow Jordan on Twitter @jt_alpenanews. Read his blog, A Snowball’s Chance, at