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Workforce Wednesday: Metallica Scholar Matthew Bronkema gaining in-demand welding skills

GRCC Workforce Training offers programs providing in-demand skills leading to rewarding careers. Each Wednesday we’ll meet students who are heading down an educational pathway and changing their lives by earning occupational certificates.

Matthew Bronkema was laid off due to the COVID-19 pandemic and was looking for a new job. He heard about GRCC Workforce Training’s Metallica Scholars program.

“My mom received an email about the Metallica Scholars program. It came at just the right time,” he said. “I knew I needed to find something that was more sustainable, some type of job that would grow. When my mom suggested I apply, I listened to her, and I’m glad I did!”

Metallica Scholars is a partnership between the legendary heavy metal band’s All Within My Hands Foundation, the American Association of Community Colleges, and Wolverine, the Rockford-based manufacturer of work boots and apparel.

GRCC was one of just 10 community colleges in the nation selected for the first Metallica Scholar grants in 2018.

The college launched an extensive welding program that included an accelerated schedule and career preparation assistance.

Welders are in-demand, and the job includes basic duties such as cutting, brazing and welding of various metal components to more advanced activities include metal inert gas welding and tungsten inert gas welding using aluminum and stainless steel. Welders gain an understanding of metallurgy, American Welding Society standards and welding equipment maintenance. People effective in the career are able to read blueprints, perform basic shop math, read measurement tools and communicate effectively with others.

“When I found out that I made it into the program I was pumped,” Bronkema said. “There weren’t very many seats available. I love this program!”

The 2016 Coopersville High grad said professor Nick Pinckney allows students to move at our own pace, and Bronkema has been able to progress quickly.

“I plan to complete this training and work toward getting my journeyman’s card. This program has given me the confidence to really plan my future. It’s looking bright!”

Matthew and others in his Metallica Scholars cohort will graduate on Feb. 25. Several students have already been offered job, and others are preparing for interviews with employers this week.

Anyone interested in gaining career skills through GRCC Workforce Training can connect via email at, and by phone at (616) 234-3800. Additional information is at

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