Launched in October, Southwest Tech’s Welding course at Prairie du Chien Correctional Institution is the latest vocational training program offered to inmates, who are selected through a competitive application process.
The prison’s second cohort of seven students will complete the three-month program in May, and a third cohort of eight students is slated to enroll this fall.
Southwest Tech Welding instructor Ben Halvorson teaches the course out of Southwestern Wisconsin Technical College’s new mobile welding lab. The 53-foot-long semi trailer is equipped with eight welding stations.
Since its rollout in June, Southwest Tech has utilized it to teach high-schoolers and has additional plans to use it for company trainings.
“The biggest benefit is that we can take our training that we do on campus and take it out anywhere,” said Derek Dachelet, Southwest Tech’s dean of industry, trades and agriculture.
The college has a longstanding partnership with the prison, and for several years, officials have worked together to bring a welding lab to Prairie du Chien.
That private companies financed a significant portion of the about $500,000 cost to construct and equip the trailer indicates the degree to which welders are needed, Halvorson said.