When Kevin McKenney joined Waldo County Technical Center two years ago as the welding trades instructor, he saw the need to update and align the program’s equipment with what the welding industry is currently using.

Through his efforts connecting with local and state businesses in the industry, along with private donors, the welding trades program has received numerous donations that are directly benefiting the students of Waldo County, WCTC said in a press release.

John Belding from the University of Maine's Advanced Manufacturing program kicked off donations with a Computerized Numerical Control plasma table with a plasma cutter power unit worth $30,000.

John Thomas of Thomas Sawmills donated a spare plasma cutter power unit for the new CNC plasma table as well as many parts of consumable equipment to keep everything running smoothly. This donation encompassed many thousands of dollars, according to the press release. Thomas also donated large amounts of steel to WCTC, which has been used for eighth grade Techsploration for the past two years. This donation enabled visiting middle schoolers to work hands on in the welding shop by creating geometrical steel cup holders.

Tony Ayotte and Troy Twitchell of Cianbro Corp. worked with McKenney to help streamline the program with industry safety standards and provided countless cost saving tips to operate a well-balanced, industry respected weld training facility.

WCTC Director Kevin A. Michaud and the Tech Center’s board approved funding to ensure that the welding shop is electrically up to code, thus eliminating safety hazards. Nathan Wren, a WCTC alumnus from Liberty East Electrical company, worked speedily last summer to complete the electrical improvements before students arrived for the school year.

Doug Frost and the team at Steel-Pro provided cutting edge steel demonstrations and lessons and also gave the school thousands of dollars in stainless steel welding wire and practice material for the students to grow past the boundaries set by the state’s minimum welding requirements, according to the press release.

Bath Regional Career and Technical Center was instrumental in funneling overage supplies from Bath Iron Works into WCTC’s welding program.

Community members with ties to the welding industry or WCTC have also made contributions to the program. Elaine Higgins of Freedom donated many pounds of shielded metal arc welding electrodes from her late husband’s home metal shop. The Fournier family of Belfast, whose son Christopher is a second-year student in the Welding Trades program, donated countless pounds of accumulated metal treasures from Christopher’s grandfather’s shop. These treasures helped to jump-start the art and sculpture portion of the welding trades program. The Fourniers also donated countless feet of stainless steel pipe that enabled students to pursue new employment opportunities.

McKenney wants every student coming out of the WCTC welding trades program to be the best-qualified for college and the workforce, according to the press release. He would like to incorporate basic conventional machine tool skills into his program, which only one other school in the state provides. This training will make students more desirable as new hires, he said.

Currently, students graduating from the welding trades program will be starting full-time careers as welding and fabrication specialists in the pharmaceutical and food processing industries, making $25 an hour starting pay, according to the press release.