By Christie McCloud, Wallace Community College
Dothan, Ala.– Sisters Annie Jewel Sconiers and Annie Doris Quinn have a thing or two in common. For starters, they have the same first name. And as of December 2016, they can add Sheet Metal Technician to that list. The two sisters – Jewel is 66 and Doris is 56 – are both graduates of the first Sheet Metal Technician class at Wallace Community College – Dothan (WCCD). The program is one of several Fast-Track Career Programs offered through WCCD’s Center for Economic and Workforce Development. WCCD’s Sheet Metal Technician program is a solution to area businesses identifying a need for trained and skilled sheet metal workers, according to WCCD’s Director of Workforce Development Joe Johnson. Based on local employer input, the College developed the Sheet Metal Technician program to train entry-level sheet metal workers for both manufacturing and construction sectors. A $150,000 Special Populations grant from the Alabama Community College System enabled WCCD to purchase specialized equipment for the program. Initially a seven-week program, the Sheet Metal Technician course will expand to 10 weeks in order to provide even more training. Correct operation of sheet metal hand tools, rotary machines, metal shears and roll forming machines are included in lab work. “The program design is not to be industry specific, but to offer more of a broad overview of how to use the equipment and understand basic functions of sheet metal fabrication,” Johnson said. Instructor Eddie Folds said he places a heavy emphasis on fundamental skills such as measuring and equipment safety.
“Basic math is huge,” Folds said. “We spent a lot of time in the classroom reviewing measurements and the tape measure.” Two days before graduation, the program held an open house at the newly renovated Sheet Metal Building on Wallace Campus in Dothan. Area businesses and representatives from the Dothan Area Chamber of Commerce visited during class time to see students in action.
“The open house is an opportunity for industries to come in and see what the new program has to offer,” Johnson said. “They can see the equipment and facility and observe students working on their final projects.” The open house also offered a unique opportunity to connect students directly with companies seeking skilled workers, and some students even had a chance to schedule interviews with potential employers.
“These businesses have real employment needs,” Johnson said. Students Jewel and Doris took the class as a challenge to learn a new skill, but they both quickly discovered that they truly enjoyed working with sheet metal. Jewel heard about the new program from a friend and said she wanted to learn about sheet metal fabrication and explore new job opportunities. She convinced a reluctant Doris to take the class with her. Initially hesitant, Doris is now hooked on the trade.
“After I got started, I fell in love, especially with the press brake,” Doris said. The large machine tool is used for bending sheet metal. A long-time welder and sheet metal fabricator, Folds said he was very pleased with the inaugural program. He was particularly impressed with the work ethic of Jewel and Doris. “They’ve done nothing but impress me. They tuned into everything and retained the knowledge,” Folds said.
The Sheet Metal Technician program joins a diverse set of short-term training programs offered by WCCD’s Center for Economic and Workforce Development. Other courses offered include Certified Nursing Assistant, Computer Skills for Today’s Workplace, Dental Assistant, Ophthalmic Assistant, Pre-apprentice Electrical Lineworker, Professional Medical Coding, Ready to Work, and Industrial Welding.
The next Sheet Metal Technician courses are scheduled to begin Feb. 6 and June 5.
To register or learn more about the Sheet Metal Technician course or any of the Fast-Track Career Programs, visit
Wallace Community College’s Center for Economic and Workforce Development or call (334) 556-2203.