Nellie Neal's father taught her to weld when she was 12 years old.
"I was never the indoor type," Neal explained. And what started as helping her dad out on the farm grew into a lifelong career that's now put her behind the teacher's podium as instructor at Ivy Tech-Logansport's new welding institute.
Neal, the youngest of Chester Baker's four daughters, went on to graduate from college with a degree in agricultural education, which included training in welding and tractor maintenance. She taught one year at a high school before beginning work as a welder and pipefitter in area factories.
Retirement from pipefitting gave her the time to go back to school in 2009 to obtain licensure as a welding inspector and a license to teach welding on the post-secondary level. Now at Ivy Tech-Logansport, she's taking eight students through the campus's Welding Institute, a 12-month program designed to equip them to enter the workforce as trained welders and pipefitters upon graduation.
Welders were among the top 100 most-sought-after employees in Indiana in 2011 and 2012, according to data presented by the Indiana Chamber of Commerce on IndianaSkills.com. The average hourly wage of Hoosier welders fell between $13.66 and $19.92, IndianaSkills indicated.
Ivy Tech's program covers five terms — three cover different types of welding and two focus specifically on pipe fabrication and blueprint reading. Three of the six students who began the program are now in their third term, learning gas tungsten arc welding in one of the campus welding lab's eight welding stations.
Twelve new welding stations were installed last month, more than doubling the program's existing eight-student capacity at a cost of about $300,000, according to Suzanne Dillman, Director of Admissions at the campus. Now, the college's goal is to have 20 students at various stages of the program at any one time, Dillman said. She expects to be able to reach that point by the fall.