Funds to accelerate welder training in south La.

A Fortune 250 corporation is donating $300,000 for accelerated training of 100 new welders spread among three Louisiana two-year colleges.

Officials of Praxair Inc. announced the program at Baton Rouge Community College in Baton Rouge and said the scholarship money also would be shared with Delgado Community College in New Orleans and SOWELA Community College in Lake Charles.

Monty Sullivan, president of the Louisiana Community and Technical College System, told Praxair officials that the money is “a $300,000 investment that fundamentally changes the lives of people.”

Jimmy Sawtelle, senior vice president for workforce solutions at the system, said the donation will enable the students to condense 18 months of study and training into nine months of six-hour days and five-day weeks.

By the end of that period, Sawtelle said, successful students will have earned the American Welding Society’s Sense Level 1 certification, their ticket to jobs paying between $30,000 and $40,000 annually.

Praxair officials said their donation is the first announced in a nationwide effort referred to as the company’s “Skills Pipeline.”

“This is a new approach to workforce development,” said Tamara Brown, director of sustainable development and community engagement at Praxair’s headquarters in Danbury, Connecticut.

Praxair reported global sales of $12 billion in 2013. It also reported a Louisiana payroll of $13 million spread across seven facilities. The company markets welding equipment, surface coatings and a variety of gases used in welding and for medical purposes in about 50 countries.

Brown emphasized, however, the firm needs more welders.

Indeed, the Louisiana Workforce Commission estimated earlier this year that companies planning to launch more than $60 billion in new construction programs statewide by 2016, as well as existing facilities, already need 1,190 new welders.

Those jobs average $41,530 in annual salaries, according to LWC records.