Exploring MCTC's Welding and Metal Fabrication Program with Todd Bridigum
Talk to anyone in the welding field and they’ll inevitably tell you two things: first, the work itself is a unique mix of art and trade, and second, there are myriad job opportunities on the horizon.
MCTC Welding and Metal Fabrication Instructor Todd Bridigum won’t argue with either statement. After learning welding at Saint Paul College, Bridigum worked in the field for several years before joining MCTC in 2002. We asked him for his thoughts on MCTC’s program, career prospects for welders and how welding fits into the modern-day U.S. manufacturing resurgence.
How did you get into welding?
I earned a bachelor’s degree in English from Hamline University. While studying, I fell in love with visual arts and wanted to further develop my skills. Going into welding was a natural choice. I earned a welding and metal fabrication diploma and worked for several Twin Cities-area companies, building everything from spiral staircases to hospital equipment to industrial ovens. I also have a studio space where I’m able to continue my studies in prints, drawings and metal sculpture.
What do you teach at MCTC?
I’m an instructor for all of the day courses within MCTC’s welding and metal fabrication program, along with welding courses within the machine tool technology and HVAC-R programs. I also enjoy team teaching a direct metals course in MCTC’s visual arts program.
Are you seeing an increased demand for welding?
Yes. We’re seeing a revival in the U.S. and manufacturing, and welding touches all areas of the manufacturing process. There’s a significant gap in the welding field because many of today’s welders are in their mid-50s and will be retiring soon. As a result, there will be more career opportunities in the years ahead.
Welders are also needed outside of the manufacturing sector. Consider Xcel Energy. It’s an energy company, but you could also consider it a welding company because it employs hundreds of welders around the country to maintain its plants.
How has MCTC responded to the demand for welders?
We recently added an evening welding program and we’re looking at expanding the day program to keep up with demand. Welding training will continue to grow at MCTC.
Why is the program so popular?
Students gain tangible skills with a short investment of time. The program provides a strong foundation so students can go directly into the field or continue their studies in an engineering program at a four-year university.
All of that aside, welding is challenging. You can compare welding to learning to play the piano because it takes lots of practice to do it well. Once you master welding, however, you’ll have a marketable skill and will have a strong career now and into the future.
Update: Todd Bridigum was featured in this story in the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Read more about his experience in his field, and the path he took to get there.