40-year welding program stonger and stonger


TORRINGTON – Eastern Wyoming College (EWC) has no doubt made its mark not only in the state of Wyoming but by word of mouth and is perhaps becoming known nationally or even worldwide.

When guests decide to tour the facilities for the first time, they will encounter all sorts of diversity across campus. Different programs, trades, sciences, arts, and sports have all cemented their firm presence within the college communities in the state.

Throughout its storied history, the college has continued to grow and introduce new programs, along with an admirably diverse population of students and staff alike.

As many who are familiar with EWC would agree, it is old but has aged like a fine wine for nearly 80 years. It has seen its share of triumphs and challenges, but truth be told is still standing and continues to grow strong in educating tomorrow’s professionals.

If one were to ever question the strength or integrity of Torrington’s small but tight-knit college, they would find they are profoundly mistaken.

The key word to remember on this particular topic is indeed strength.

One of EWC’s oldest programs could be widely considered at this point one of its very strongest. Appropriately speaking we are of course talking about its welding program, which started over 40 years ago in the early 1980s.

Both in statistics and by word-of-mouth, the college welding department has continued to adapt and thrive over the course of a few generations now. The student welders of yesterday have become passionate, no-nonsense instructors who want nothing more than to see today’s students succeed in a tough but very rewarding trade.

Headed up by EWC alum, Lynn Bedient, along with certified instructors Stan Nicolls, Joel Alworth and Darren Young, the program is strong as ever headed into the mid-2020s and does not plan on backing down anytime soon.

In fact, it is only getting stronger.

Although the staff has settled in nicely with a new generation, sometimes in the world of welding expectations of the old guard are still the best way to go.

“We are serious about welding, and I think all these guys understand what I’m saying,” Bedient said. “We are serious about making these people successful and how we do it. So, if we are getting ready to hire or enroll, I always tell them we are serious about welding. We like to have fun, but this isn’t a fun and games thing. We are serious about what’s going on here.”

For a trade demanding constant mental and physical focus, along with top-notch experience and mentorship; one simply can’t blame Bedient and his colleagues for taking their craft of both welding and education seriously.

As each instructor would so vehemently put it, it is not just about teaching the trade but even more about preparing them for the real world.

“We are here, and the students are our main goal,” Nicolls said. “It’s about taking our students and providing quality training, so they become proficient in this field.”

“Our theory is somewhat trying to build a foundation for them so they can build a career,” Bedient added. “Some of the things we do is we have a set of soft skills, and those are integrated into what we are doing. If they are doing something wrong which will cause them problems in the work world, we let them know. All of us have worked as welders, and we have about 120 years of welding experience between us. We know what will happen out there.”

Bedient further added from past experience the value of good mentorship when it comes to ensuring the success of his students and future welders.

“Leland Vetter started this 43 years ago in 1981. All of our work and mentorship styles came from him. We want to keep passing it along. It’s a very successful program he started, and we want it to keep going.”

While one could certainly feel the will and heart of each instructor on the strength of the welding program, student Riley Arnold gave honest opinions reflecting the same approach his teachers and mentors seem to believe in.

“The amount of time we have on each subject is like content time above all,” Arnold explained. “I have learned more from the last few months I have been here than the last 18 years of my life. The quality of teaching we are getting from these four instructors are incomparable to anything else. They are running this like a job which is what needs to be happening and preparing us to work out in the field. It’s much more than a school environment.”

When it came to the discussion of what future students could possibly learn and enjoy from the program, Arnold was not shy in speaking on behalf of the program he has come to love and the instructors who have become his mentors.

“There is definitely a diversity of what we learn here,” Arnold added. “We don’t just focus on one thing. There are so many different processes and so many things we work on every day. It helps you learn and more so retain information so we can apply it to the field. One great example is our skills chapter. It’s great Wyoming is connecting welding and all fields into the college and with each other. The job fair was an extremely valuable aspect, and I was able to talk to a lot of amazing companies. It was very valuable, and definitely a great tool. Really future-wise, students can do anything they want. When you leave here you can do anything, cross country pipelines, factories, turnovers, power plants, or structural. There seriously is not an end to the possibilities.”

“I think we try to make sure they are part of the college and our welding program, but we definitely try to make them interact with other college personnel,” Nicolls added.

When it came to reflecting, or even comparing a bit who past students were when first entering the program to where they are now in the world; Nicolls was convincing and on par with his apprentices speaking near a bright future.

“We have had all of our students who have left here, and some are still welding,” Nicolls said. “Some have gone into management roles. It’s really nice to see them climb up the welding run you might say. So many of them have gone from being in the trenches to owning companies and working for some major corporations.”

After finishing conversations with each man as they decided to take a break to enjoy some fresh pizza for lunch, one would have no doubt they were telling the truth when it came to the power and strength of this program.

The message was perfectly clear. If an individual is serious about welding, has a desire to learn, wants to work hard, and learn from over 120 combined years of experience, this is absolutely the place to be.

As Arnold’s friend and peer Dayton Tillman put it candidly, “I wouldn’t want to go to any other welding school in the country than right here at Eastern Wyoming College.”