Patrick Henry Community College recently received two substantial grants that have helped to set into motion a much-need, long-awaited expansion project.
The first grant, worth more than $450,000, is from the Economic Development Administration.
PHCC also received a $224,200 grant from the Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission.
Together, the two grants will enable PHCC to purchase the equipment and supplies necessary to expand its welding program.
PHCC is starting a renovation project within the next few months, and the equipment purchase will play a big role. In March, PHCC will begin renovating the former Arrington Performance building on Motorsport Drive to house a start-of-the-art welding facility large enough to triple the capacity of the college’s current welding program.
“In our current welding facility, we simply don’t have the space and equipment to serve all the students that apply. These two grants really green-lighted the whole expansion project for us because the equipment is such a critical element in our plans,” said PHCC’s Vice President of Financial and Administrative Services Jack Hanbury.
PHCC has been planning and raising funds for this expansion project for several years. Over the last few years, PHCC 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.
The college also needed over $800,000 for the equipment – equipment such as 45 new welding booths. The two recent grants will fulfill that need.
Currently, PHCC’s welding program has 16 welding booths on the main campus and a waitlist of 66 students long. At the end of 2021, when the renovations are completed, the welding program will move into the newly renovated space with 45 new welding booths.
With the increased capacity, PHCC projects that the number of welding credentials it awards annually could double to 114 per year.
The projected increase in credentialed welders could be an economic boon for the region – both for the many students launching careers in welding and for local employers who have a significant need for qualified welders.
Within PHCC’s service region, there are 69 welding jobs with median hourly earnings of $17.96 per hour and a projected growth of 2.9 percent per year. If the search is expanded to include all welding jobs within a 50-mile radius, the number of welding jobs balloons to 1,539, with an hourly median earning of $18.96 per hour. In short, welding is a well-paying, high-demand local career.
“Welding is such a great field for so many people –it pays well, it’s hands-on, and it’s in-demand. That is exactly why these grants are such a big deal. Our college, our future welding students, and local employers all are poised to benefit. We couldn’t be more grateful to the EDA, the Tobacco Commission, and our local donors,” Hanbury said.