- Associated Press - Sunday, December 3, 2017

DOTHAN, Ala. (AP) - Dan DuBose believes the Dothan area has a problem, and the owner of two fabrication businesses hopes a step he took earlier this year provides a solution.

DuBose’s businesses, Motobilt and Anvil Industrial Group, need extremely skilled welders and designers to produce top-end products - including some that have appeared in the third Wolverine movie Logan. DuBose said finding the skill level needed for his Dothan businesses has been difficult at times.

“Welders and designers are definitely a bottleneck for me,” he said. “When it comes to qualified people to fill some of the positions we seek to fill, we have to go outside of the area to recruit employees for our team.”

But DuBose hopes a move he made in January changes the future of the job market - and the future of area families along with it. After paying a visit to the Houston County Career Academy’s welding program, DuBose loaned the facility a plasma cutter that has had a tremendous impact on students’ ability to create products, instructors said.

“I tell you what it’s done for us. It’s increased their arc time, not having to hand-cut everything, by 1,000 percent,” said Dewey Lee, a welding instructor at HCCA.

“Students could actually take an idea from a concept created on a computer and walk away with a physical part in their hand that they created,” added Shannon Jimmerson, a pre-engineering teacher.

Plasma cutters do not actually weld. What they do is cut out parts that can be used in welding, Lee said.

“The way it’s designed is it allows the electrical current, which is about 11,000 degrees, in the presence of the nitrogen that’s in the compressed air system, to ionize the gas and super-heat it to about 43,000 degrees,” Lee said. “It will cut anything that will conduct electricity, and it will cut some nonmetals if you put metal on bottom so it can draw an arc through it - like ceramics and things like it.”

Before the plasma cutter arrived at HCCA - a career-tech branch of the Houston County Schools system located in the old Sears building in downtown Dothan - welders used hand torches to cut designs and parts, Lee said. With the plasma cutter, welding students can ask Jimmerson and her students to design the parts, upload the computer files into the table and let the table do the work in an accurate fashion, Jimmerson said.

“It’s a plot of a million points,” Lee, who is based out of Wallace Community College, said. “What the software does is just phenomenal.”

“It’s very precise,” Jimmerson added.

For an example, Lee had an idea for a plant hanger. He communicated the design and dimensions to Jimmerson, and she created the model within a day, Jimmerson said.

Jimmerson said her students have also been able to create their own designs and test them with the table. That has allowed them to get a better feel for the design and production process, a key element that is missing in the workforce, DuBose said. “Often times we hire welders who cannot effectively read prints. We hire CAD (computer-aided design) designers who cannot effectively communicate to the welders/fabricators,” he said. “My approach to the school was ‘Why not have the engineering program design parts to be cut on the machine?’ This way both departments benefit from the equipment.”

“A student can see just because they have an idea, there may be a problem with creating that that they’ve got to troubleshoot it, find a better way to design it before they can create the part,” Jimmerson added.

Now HCCA student welders spend more time practicing the craft while learning the basics of a tool that is used by all fabricators in the area, Lee said. In fact, students were using a cutting-edge version of the technology when it first arrived.

Motobilt serves as a “beta” tester for Lincoln Electric - one of two major manufacturers of welding equipment, DuBose said. The plasma table that he loaned to HCCA was in testing mode earlier this year and now has been placed on the market thanks to Motobilt’s help.

HCCA uses Lincoln Electric equipment, inspiring the idea to loan the table. Additionally, DuBose said the design program the school uses is compatible with the program his businesses utilize.

DuBose hopes the table inspires a new generation of highly skilled welders and designers - and changes the future of families with high-paying jobs.

“I really hope that we can, at minimum, affect one student in a way where it changes his or her family tree - meaning they see a career that elevates them to a higher level in life and inspires them to want more,” he said.


Information from: The Dothan Eagle, http://www.dothaneagle.com

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