Weeks after graduating from Bellbrook High School in Greene County, Ohio, Cory Sheldon was working at one of the biggest aerospace manufacturers in the world learning how to weld jet engine parts.

Interested in a hands-on job, Cory chose to attend Greene County Career Center his junior and senior years of high school and earn a Tungsten Inert Gas (TIG) welding certificate. Thanks to a new internship opportunity in Spring 2018 at GE Aviation subsidiary Unison Industries, Sheldon graduated high school with the certificate and by June, was working full-time third shift joining ducts to air manifolds.

Now, 19-year-old Sheldon and his co-workers are busily welding air manifolds for the GEnx engine and CFM International’s LEAP engine*.

For Sheldon, he has accumulated no student debt to learn a trade and hopes to buy a house when he turns 21.

“It’s a really good starting job. Good pay too. I don’t have any debts to pay off, I can start saving my money and save up for the future,” he said.

For GE Aviation and Unison, hiring Sheldon is part of a series of new approaches taken to tackle the challenge of finding more welders. Last year, Unison, also known as Dayton Elano, started a high school internship program for local students. Then in December 2018, Unison also started an apprenticeship program to help existing employees and applicants become welder-certified.

The LEAP engine, with more than 17,350 orders and commitments worldwide, is the best-selling commercial jet engine ever. Manufacturing is ramping up at GE Aviation sites to meet commitments for a record number of engine deliveries. Record production rates are expected to grow again this year.

These historically-high production rates are creating more product volume and jobs across GE Aviation’s plants.

 The design of the LEAP engine’s heating and cooling system is more complex than previous CFM International engine products to improve fuel efficiency.

The design of the LEAP engine’s heating and cooling system is more complex than previous CFM International engine products to improve fuel efficiency. This has increased the number of air, fuel and oil tubes and ducts, along with other parts produced at Unison. Now, more than half of Unison’s output is tied to the LEAP engine.

“This is unprecedented product growth for a shop like Unison in the Dayton area, so we had to hire to meet the demand,” said Tyler Reed, senior plant manager for Unison Industries. “We are investing in both employee development and manufacturing technology, but due to the complexity, we don’t automate the processes for all the parts we make.”

Unison’s Dayton area locations have hired about 60 new welders in 2018—including Sheldon—and more welders are needed.

Due to the limited availability of local welding talent, Unison’s human resources (HR) team explored other ways to build a pipeline of potential welding applicants. One of these approaches was to reach out to Greene County Career Center seeking high school students to intern.

“We are able to teach entry-level to advanced welding and metal fabrication to our students and they have plenty of options when they graduate. We have pipefitters, iron workers, sheet metal workers, aerospace welders and welding engineers as productive members of the workforce not only locally, but on a national level as well,” said Mike Thompson, Greene County Career Center welding instructor.

Students who complete the internship, pass the company’s welding exam and participate in a selective interview process are hired as probationary employees.

“We are now doing this for another four interns starting this year. We are planning on increasing our participation,” said Ina Petras, Dayton Unison site HR leader.

Sheldon is one of the first high school students to spend a half day at one of Unison’s Beavercreek plants while studying to complete a welding certificate before being hired full-time. Once hired, all new welders complete an additional six weeks of on-the-job training at Unison’s internal weld school, learning more about how to make the welds Unison supplies the global aerospace industry.

“I’d like to stay in welding the rest of my life… It’s just a passion at this point,” Sheldon said.

In December, a new apprenticeship program was launched to help existing Unison employees interested in becoming welders upskill and earn their certifications. Job applicants who haven’t passed Unison’s stringent entrance welding exam could be considered for the weld apprenticeship program based on their skill level.

“When I look at a site like Unison Dayton, it’s definitely ripe for learning and has a highly engaged workforce that is adaptable to change. Welding is both a good and competitive paying job,” Reed said. “I think about the growth opportunities our welders have even beyond welding,” such as positions in engineering, quality, and senior leadership to advance a welding career, he said.

Search in-demand welding jobs at GE Aviation online at https://www.GE.com/careers/ using job number 3231457.

Unison Industries manufactures small and large diameter tubes, and complex air, fuel, and engine build up (EBU) ducts for jet engine heating and cooling systems. Some of Unison’s process capabilities include foundry, machining, tube bending, hydroforming, braze and welding.

*LEAP engines are a product of CFM International, a 50/50 joint venture company between GE and Safran Aircraft Engines and the world’s leading supplier of commercial aircraft engines.