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WNCC Welding Facility Earns Re-Accreditation by AWS

May 17, 2018


 Just 161 institutions in the United States are considered Accredited Test Facilities (ATF) by the American Welding Society (AWS). 
"They're kind of scarce," said Russell Pontarolo, Western Nebraska Community College welding technology instructor and AWS certified welding inspector.
Last month, WNCC completed a successful audit through the American Welding Society to become re-accredited as an Accredited Test Facility for another three years. WNCC has maintained accreditation as an ATF since 2014.
"It's a huge part of being a successful welding program," Pontarolo said. "We have great administration that is definitely on board with it."
To be considered for accreditation, facilities must meet industry-required standards of equipment and procedures, and have at least one certified welding instructor on staff. WNCC has two certified welding instructors in Russell Pontarolo, who has been certified since 2001, and Mark Schmidt, who has been certified two years.
Upon conclusion of his site visit, AWS auditor Rick Suria recommended WNCC's facility be re-accredited, summarizing the College had a "well-equipped, clean, and organized facility." Suria also noted WNCC's welding facility is "adequately staffed with competent staff."
The successful audit allows Pontarolo and Schmidt to qualify and certify students, and the community, at WNCC. It also means WNCC students have the opportunity to become certified welders in the Welding Technology program.
Either Pontarolo or Schmidt certify welders given the test weld passes both a visual and destructive test, which are outlined by the AWS.
Earning those certificates while in college, Pontarolo said, makes a world of difference for his students as they prepare to enter the workforce. Having a certificate recognized by the AWS tends to set his students apart from the field, Pontarolo said.
"It shows they've at least proven to perform to those standards," Pontarolo said. "It should give an employer a degree of confidence in hiring our students."
In fact, in the last several weeks with classes wrapping up, Pontarolo had a number of students accept jobs contingent on earning AWS certificates.
"So once they got those certificates, the students took them down (to the employers), and now they'll be going to work," Pontarolo said.
WNCC's ATF status benefits more than just the students, though. In fact, Pontarolo regularly conducts tests for welders in the area and region. Oftentimes, professional welders are required to renew their certifications. Pontarolo also inspects tests for welders looking to change jobs, or companies looking to expand services.
"In a welder's career, they're going to have to recertify constantly to stay competitive," Pontarolo said.
For more information on WNCC's ATF status or the College's Welding Technology program, contact Pontarolo at or 308-635-6083.