CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KFVS) - It's a seven hour commitment, five days a week that, after four weeks, hopefully ends with a welder's certification. But, Craig Mason doesn't call it work.
"It's been fun. It's been really fun," Mason said.
Mason is into his final week of training to become a certified welder.
A more than $70,000 federal grant is paying for free training many hope will spark job growth in the Heartland.
After doing some welding at his last factory job, Mason says he wanted to use that interest to throw a spark on his job prospects.
"I knew a little bit about it, just the feel of it and now, I've got the knowledge," Mason said. "I'm looking for a career. And with the way the economy is today, I believe that welders are going to be needed more and more."
"There's a shortage," explained Bruce Bird, who runs this accredited testing laboratory at the Carpenter's Training Center in Cape Girardeau. "Welding is an area that, there's a lack of young people coming into along with construction. Most of your workers nowadays are in their 40s or 50s."
"A lot of these guys are coming in with little to no experience at all and I'm running them through the basics," said instructor Brian Sides.
Sides came through a similar training program nearly 10 years ago. He agrees, with a welders shortage nationwide, this training means more than just a job.
"I try to help people into a career," Sides said.
"It's like any other skill. It takes a lot of determination, a lot of practice, and just the will to develop that skill," Bird said. "It's not something that you learn even in four weeks. I mean, it's going to take years and years."
But, that's a commitment Craig Mason is happy to make as he sees his future taking shape in sparks and steel.
"I feel blessed to have this opportunity," Mason said.
Janet Witter with the Workforce Investment Board helped fund the welding certification program. She says, in this economy, short-term training is ideal in order to get more people back to work.
"In a four week training class, they're eligible to earn four different certifications," Witter said. "And they're from the American Welding Society, so that's a nationally recognized certification. Not only is it going to apply here in Missouri, but somebody could move and go someplace else and that credential is recognized."
The Carpenter's Training Center will host two more four-week training sessions before the federal grant money expires. The first runs May 3 through May 28 and the second will run June 1 through June 25. Interested applicants must be at least 18 years old, physically able, and must pass both a drug test and a reading skills test. For more information, contact the center at 573-335-1936.