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Pine Bluff company opening doors for aspiring welders

Manufacturing company Central Moloney is partnering with Watson Chapel High School in Pine Bluff to prepare the next generation of welders.

PINE BLUFF, Ark. — Central Moloney has partnered with Watson Chapel High School in Pine Bluff to train students to become welders.

Central Moloney CEO Chris Hart said the partnership could address some gaps in the organization.

"One of the deepest needs in terms of skilled labor that we've got are welders," Hart said.

Hart said finding welders isn't always easy due to the nature of the business.

"Our turnover is through the roof," Hart said. "We are doing everything we can to combat that."

According to Hart, building a pipeline for those interested can be beneficial, which is why the company decided to partner with Watson Chapel High School at the beginning of this school year.

"We will be glad to put our money upfront and invest in the students that are one day going to become the labor force here," Hart said.

It all starts inside the Wildcat Welding Academy.

So far, 19 students are enrolled in the program, and Central Moloney invested $200,000 to upgrade a room that wasn't being used. The program is also taught by an employee with the appropriate certifications.

The students are learning various styles and methods of welding and spent six weeks reviewing safety practices. In addition, students used scrap material from the plant to make things, such as a grill.

Hart said the students are picking up transferrable skills that contribute to any manufacturing environment.

"You've got to be at work on time every day," Hart said. "You've got to be willing to learn [and] take a little bit of instruction."

Curtis Marks, who works for Central Moloney and has his teaching certification, has been tabbed to lead the students and wants to teach them lessons that can be applied outside the classroom.

"I want to instill in the guys that once you graduate, it's the real world outside," Marks said. "No matter whether it's welding, plumbing, or electrical work, you always try to do your best."

The program wants to open doors for students ready to join the workforce in Pine Bluff at companies like Central Moloney. Other schools in Southeast Arkansas have expressed interest.

Hart said money is being sent to Dumas, Stuttgart and Cleveland County to create similar programs for those school districts.

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