PRCC teaming up with Ingalls to employ fitters

Published 7:00 am Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Getting a job that pays a living wage after only eight weeks or less of training can be a reality by taking Pearl River Community College’s fitter program.

PRCC Vice President for Workforce and Economic Development Scott Alsobrooks gave a tour of the fitter program underway at PRCC Monday morning. During that tour, visitors were allowed to see where welders, pipefitters and fitters learn a new trade.

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In the fitter program, offered with potential for students to earn a job at Ingalls Shipbuilding, the students were put through the paces in a setting similar to what working for Ingalls would be like. During the eight week program, which started in May and was held four days a week from 7 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., students learned how to measure, cut and tack weld a piece of metal to a simulated application, such as building a large ship.

Monday morning, all of the lessons they learned in that time were put to practical use in a written and hands-on test as representatives of Ingalls observed the results.

Workforce Development Manager for Ingalls Garry Mercer, said that any of the students who passed  the test that day would be offered a job.

Applying for the program is simple; Alsobrooks said that all a prospective student has to do is fill out some minimal paperwork and pass a drug screen.

If a student passes the hour and fifteen minute hands-on fitter test and is offered a job by Ingalls, he or she will undergo several weeks of on-the-job training, which is paid, and will be required to take another drug screen, Mercer said. They are also given a physical agility test to ensure they are suited for working in the conditions of a shipyard.

While Ingalls is offering the students jobs provided they pass the test, Alsobrooks said the students are not obligated to work for the shipbuilding company. In fact, of the 14 students that began the course, three took jobs offshore before completing it.

PRCC Welding Instructor Rylan Shaw said the fitter course was set up to best resemble actual working conditions at a shipyard, including the work tables and learning their trade outside in the heat. Although the work area is covered, there is no air conditioning. He said that setting allowed students to determine if working in the heat of summer while wearing heavy safety gear was for them or not.