The Brownwood Center of Texas State Technical College-West Texas may offer a fast-track welding course like one being offered in Abilene.

Ken Becker, associate vice president at the Brownwood location, told members of the Brownwood Economic Development Board this week that “we are taking a look at that to see if it could work here.”

Robert Puls of the West Central Texas Workforce Development Board in Abilene explained how the series of welding courses is handled there.

“It’s designed to meet the specific needs of five employers,” Puls said. “It’s training students for a career, not just a job. It teaches welding skills as well as basic employability skills during the five weeks. It provides career development along with skills development.”

The need for welders is great and is continuing to grow in the Brownwood and Abilene areas, Puls said.

“If the TSTC and Cisco College welding courses were full and they all found jobs in this area, we would still not be able to meet the demand for welders,” Puls said.

The fourth class in the series in Abilene wrapped up Thursday, and the fifth class is scheduled to begin in June.

The fast-track course doesn’t give a student welding certification, such as the longer TSTC course does, but is does “provide quality individuals to assist those employers,” Puls said.

He added that if the fast-track course works in Brownwood, it could be eligible for a skills grant in the future.

“Hopefully, at the end of the day, we’ll have funding to pay for most of it,” BEDC Executive Director James Campbell said. “That’s what we need to do — job training. I have a feeling if the program is put together, you’ll be back to us for funding,” Campbell told Puls.

“There seems to be a great need for welders here,” Becker said. Unfortunately, a number of the students TSTC trains are either choosing to move back to their hometowns or accepting jobs in other parts of the state, rather than taking jobs locally. But it’s not because jobs aren’t available here.

“A lot of trainees go through the program and go back home,” Becker said.

TSTC has about 21 welding students earning their one-year certificates.

“We have an 85 percent placement rate, and it may be higher than that because we don’t always know when people get a job,” Puls said. “We can’t force people to go to work for those five employers.”

Those who successfully complete the fast-track program are guaranteed interviews with the sponsoring employers, but not a job with them.