A group of new Mainers is receiving welding training in a Southern Maine Community College workforce development class that provides immigrants valuable skills that will benefit them in the workforce.

Eight Maine residents from the African nations of Angola, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda are enrolled in a beginning welding class that meets for four hours once a week. The 60-hour class is held in SMCC’s South Portland Campus welding lab and continues through January.

One of the students, Luvundisa Kalombako, moved to Portland two years ago in search of stability and opportunities that aren’t available in his homeland of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. A pipefitter by trade, he hopes to build a career in construction.

“My goal is to be an engineer in metal construction,” he said during a recent class, taking a break while sparks flew from welding stations in the lab. “To learn how to weld is one step for me to reach my goal.”

The class provides basic skills that will benefit those working toward a career in the welding field or a field in which welding skills are required. It is funded by a grant from the Morton-Kelly Charitable Trust through The Foundation for Maine’s Community Colleges.

The grant is designed to support new Mainers in workforce training and/or academic programs. SMCC worked with Portland Adult Education to recruit students for the class. SMCC and Portland Adult Education established a partnership, called Building the Pipeline (BTP), a year ago to enhance workforce training and educational opportunities for new Mainers.

BTP aims to improve the screening, testing, evaluation and prior learning assessment of immigrant populations in southern Maine to align more closely with workforce training and credential-awarding programs at SMCC.

“Through our Workforce Development Department and initiatives like BTP, SMCC is helping new Mainers receive the training and education they need to secure bright futures,” said Jim Whitten, SMCC’s Dean of Workforce Development. “At the same time, the training provides students with the skills that businesses are looking for to fill their workforce needs.”

Lievino Lobi, who moved to Maine from Angola, said no matter what career path he chooses, he knows the welding class will help.

“I want to increase my skills,” he said. “Becoming a welder is a dream for me.”

Photo: SMCC welding instructor John Gallagher offers some welding instruction to Luvundisa Kalombako.

Southern Maine Community College (SMCC) is Maine’s largest and oldest community college. Founded in 1946, SMCC offers courses at its South Portland and Brunswick campuses, at community satellite locations and online. SMCC has among the lowest tuition and fees in New England and offers more than 40 degree programs.