The acrid smell of liquified metal hangs heavy in the air as superheated sparks shower behind the blue plastic curtains that shield passersby.
Inside the welding booth, one hand inside a dirty yellow glove takes hold of two strips of steel while the other wraps around the base of a gun that will employ what seems more like magic than science to bond the strips together.
There were 337,300 jobs for welders, cutters, solderers and brass workers in 2010, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, which expects growing demand.
Most welders are 50 or older and close to retirement, says Jason Walsh, who heads Front Range’s welding program. “We’re not replacing them as quickly as they’re going away.” Demand is high nationwide.
“We have pipelines that stretch from Utah to Pennsylvania, from Canada to Texas,” Walsh said, “and that requires a lot of welders.”
Graduates can start at $20 per hour.