Local manufacturer to offer weld training program

Universal Handling Equipment, located in Owosso’s industrial park, will soon offer weld training classes in which students will receive an hourly wage and a chance to become permanent employees.

OWOSSO — A local manufacturer faced with a shortage of welders is addressing the problem itself with an on-site weld training program that pays an hourly wage and offers the chance for a full-time job.

Universal Handling, which makes roll off dumpsters, will present the weld training program in the evenings, from 4 to 7:30 p.m. Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays for four weeks starting March 1 at the facility, 1650 Industrial Drive.

Students will actually receive pay — $9.65 per hour — to learn welding basics. Those who excel will be considered for full-time employment at Universal Handling, which includes health benefits and a pay increase.

“The purpose of the program is to take local individuals and train them how we want them to be trained for the products we manufacture — and hopefully put them to work,” said Universal Handling Operations Manager Craig McCorkle, who came up with the idea of on-site training.

He said as recently as five years ago the company had welding candidates “lined up at the door,” but the workforce has changed since then, seeming to reject “middle-paying” positions. Unemployment benefits boosted by COVID-19-related relief haven’t helped, he added.

“But there is work out there for people who want to work,” McCorkle said.

Justin Horvath, president/CEO of Shiawassee Economic Development Partnership, applauded the program’s innovative solution to a lack of employee candidates possessing needed skills.

“Talent is the No. 1 employment issue in this county,” Horvath said. “I love the fact that Universal Handling has taken it upon themselves to put this program in. This is a real opportunity for a business to drive its own training.

“As far as I’m aware, this is the first opportunity like this in the county. I hope it’s the start of many. Many of our local companies need welders. We’re going to fully support and promote this program.”

Already four or five candidates have signed up for Universal’s weld training program, McCorkle said, and there’s room for more. The company is seeking about 10 candidates to train.

According to company officials, in the program candidates will learn:

n About a safe work environment and proper personal protective equipment

n How to program machines per the material they are welding on

n How to operate a oxy/acetylene torch (if time allows)

n Different weld joints and how to successfully weld those joints (positions, travel speeds, etc.)

n How to be efficient with their time and the importance of staying busy on the job

n The importance of reporting to the training course on time and ready to learn

n How to build the steel product we manufacture

n A trade that they will be able to take with them the rest of their lives

There are no guarantees for candidates, and their training can be terminated at any time without notice by Universal Handling, company officials said.

Graduates of the program who are hired can expect to earn $13 to $14 to start, McCorkle said. A seasoned welder at Universal Handling would start at about $15 per hour, he said.

Universal Handling, founded in the early 1960s, expanded to Owosso in the ’90s. A second Owosso facility is located at 1150 Aiken Road. Today, the company boasts multiple branches in Michigan and Canada, and serves customers across the United States and Canada.

“Universal Handling has been in the local community since 1994, and we’ve been going strong ever since,” McCorkle said. “It’s a steady place to work — not back-breaking — and our employees earn a 40-hour paycheck, if not overtime.”

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