Rockbridge County trade school growing, filling demand for high-paying welding jobs

The Byers Technical Institute is taking more students with plans to expand

ROCKBRIDGE COUNTY, Va. – Local high school students are forging their future, preparing to enter a well-paying career, working for companies who badly need their expertise.

The Byers Technical Institute has continued to grow since 10 News last stopped by, doubling its number of students to more than 40 in the last two years.

Demand for workers in this field is sky high.

One estimate shows there will be a shortage of about 400,000 welders in the next four years, according to the American Welders Society.

Local high school students spend 12 hours a week inside the facility.

Rockbridge County High School students learn welding at the Byers Technical Institute (WSLS)

“I really like being able to come here. I know a lot of people don’t get to do what I get to do,” Rockbridge County High School senior Aaron Jarvis said.

They can make $50,000 or more a year.

“It’s really a good money maker and can really set you up for life, if you know how to do it right,” Rockbridge County High School senior Blake Earhart said.

Every graduate so far has found a job.

Director Walt Johnson said one graduate made $80,000 one year later.

“It’s great. Those are the kind of stories you want coming back,” he said.

He expects to add more students each year.

Industry leaders are supporting the Byers Technical Institute because it’s giving them valuable employees.

“It's been a lot of fast growth. It's been a little overwhelming. We knew we would grow. We knew we had what the industry needed, we just didn't expect the growth to happen so fast,” Johnson said.

The school bought a church next door and will use it to add classrooms and dorms.

Johnson is looking at starting more schools in Virginia and out of state. He's meeting with leaders in Alabama later this week.

The school is starting a new scholarship.

It’s taking applications now for a full 40-week program worth $15,000. Applications are due by April 6.