Martinsville, Va. (WFXR) — Patrick Henry Community College’s welding program is about to get bigger and better due to two substantial grants.

PHCC set out to renovate the former Arrington Performance building on Motorsport Drive to house a start-of-the-art welding facility a few years ago. The college initially received $3.2 million from the Harvest Foundation, $600,000 from the Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission, and $325,000 from college local funds to complete the renovation. These funds, however, cover mainly construction.

Obtaining equipment has been the college’s final piece of the puzzle to begin executing expansion plans. This month PCHH garnered the funding which will make it possible. The first grant, worth more than $450,000, comes from the Economic Development Administration. The second grant of $224,200 grant comes from the Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission.

The grants couldn’t have been received at a better time, as Welding Professor of twenty years, Randy Smith says with the welding industry booming and student’s interest in pursuing the industry increasing, they have outgrown their current space.

“We average about 80 students a semester and we’ve gotten the notice that we have a waiting list, even sometimes it’s up to 70 on the waiting list.”

Randy Smith, PHCC Welding Professor

The state of the art welding facility will be large enough to triple the capacity of the college’s current welding program and newer equipment, including robotic welding machines and a fabrication lab, will allow them to teach major welding processes.

“We currently have 16 welding booths, this new facility will have 45 welding booths, so obviously we can accommodate more students who have been on the waiting list to get into the program. These students acquire jobs locally because the employers and welders are in demand. They can leave our program and go to into high-paying jobs.”

 Jack Hanbury, PHCC VP of Finance and Administration

As Hanbury mentions, students that complete the program finish fairly quickly and are able to make around $17.00 per hour fresh out of the program.

Current Patrick Henry Community College welding student, Eric Delcher speaks highly of his experience in the current program and is excited about future opportunities.

“It’s been a phenomenal experience being here. I can’t wait to finish this program and go out and have a very good high-paying job right out of college.”

Eric Delcher, PHCC welding student

To learn more about opportunities at Patrick Henry Community College, click here.