After working for years as a mechanic, Matawan resident Justin Dapolito found himself in an unfamiliar situation. Despite his extensive experience and a host of professional certifications, there simply wasn’t enough work to go around.
Like countless others before him, Dapolito was laid off.
Seemingly overnight, the 36-year-old was faced with a difficult decision: keep seeking work as a mechanic, or chart a new path in a different career field. Ultimately, he decided to take a chance.
“A friend told me about this free welding training program offered through Brookdale,” Dapolito said. “I’d never really considered welding before, but it sounded like the kind of opportunity I couldn’t pass up.”
Dapolito was one of 13 area workers selected from more than 100 applicants for the program, which is sponsored by the New Jersey Community College Consortium for Workforce and Economic Development (NJCCC) and funded by the U.S. Department of Labor.
It open to residents who have been unemployed or underemployed for at least six months.
Beginning in late June and running through mid-August, the students train with a certified course instructor on a wide range of professional grade equipment, learning fundamental skills such as arc welding, fabrication and blueprint reading.
The 150-hour course, run out of the Monmouth County Vocational School in Matawan, also teaches more general workplace skills, such as business communications, resume writing and interviewing strategies.
At graduation the students will sit for an American Welding Society certification exam, after which they will be eligible for an entry-level position in the field. And there are jobs waiting for them, according to Brookdale Business Training Manager James McCarthy.
“Companies across the state are in desperate need of skilled labor, and of welders in particular,” McCarthy said.
“There is a company right now in Monmouth County that is looking to hire three welders from this program, because that demand is so high. And one student has already found a job, two weeks before the program ends.”
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the welding industry is expected to grow by 15 percent between 2010 and 2020, adding an estimated 50,000 new positions.
That demand is the reason the NJCCC rolled out its Ready to Work New Jersey program this April, according to NJCCC Project Manager Daniel Lim. In just four months, the program has helped more than 130 job seekers return to work.
“That need is out there, and we want to make sure all of you stand out to employers,” said Lim, who joined McCarthy to speak with the class in Matawan on July 29.
“The AWS certification is valuable; not all welders have that… This class is going to open the door for you, and you can really take your career as far as you want to.”
The training will not end in the classroom, Lim said. As the graduates will continue to learn on the job after signing on with employers, the NJCCC will use federal grant funds to pay 90 percent of the new employees’ salaries, up to $10,000.
The entry-level welders will essentially get paid to train while earning valuable work experience, enabling them to expand their skills, earn new credentials and build a truly rewarding career.
“That, to me, is the truly amazing part of this program,” said Dapolito, who would like to pursue a career in the dangerous but lucrative world of underwater welding.
“It can take you as far as you want to go, depending on what you make of it. It’s an unbelievable opportunity, and I intend to take full advantage of it.”
The welding program is Brookdale’s second workforce training collaboration with the NJCCC this year. In March, ten local job-seekers graduated from a manufacturing training program hosted on the Lincroft campus, most of whom found high-paying jobs within a week.
To learn more about workforce training opportunities at Brookdale, click here.
Check out more photos of the welding program here.