Welding a ‘Peaceful’ Profession for New Sandburg Instructor Ian Milligan

  Aaron Frey
  Wednesday, August 5, 2020 1:13 PM
  Campus News

Galesburg, IL

For a trade that features sparks flying, metal grinding and hammers banging, Ian Milligan has an unconventional way to describe welding.

“It’s just peaceful, really,” Milligan said. “It’s really relaxing because you get into a rhythm. You have to be really relaxed and comfortable to do it. It’s kind of like an art because you have to be steady and calm, controlling of the pedal.”

Now Milligan will help others to find that peace and relaxation as Carl Sandburg College’s newest full-time welding instructor. Milligan’s hiring for the position was approved by the Board of Trustees during its meeting July 23.

Milligan is no stranger to Sandburg’s welding program. A 2013 Galesburg High School graduate, he first got interested in welding during his senior year of high school while shadowing his older brother Jacob, who was taking welding classes here.

“I thought it looked interesting, and I didn't really have a plan for what I was going to do in my life, so I figured this would be a start,” Milligan said. “And then I pretty much fell in love with it.”

He came to Sandburg that fall and graduated in 2014, earning four different welding certificates under the tutelage of former longtime instructor Craig Johnson. After graduating, he was hired as a production welder at CNH Industrial in Burlington, Iowa, where he helped built combine heads and backhoes. Milligan said his experience at Sandburg made him feel “more than ready” for his first full-time job.

“I treat it kind of like a sport. You push yourself to do better every time you come in and do it,” Milligan said. “Make it like a competition and be better every day. I took that mentality to where I worked pretty much every day.”

Milligan spent the last six years at CNH Industrial and continued working there after he joined Sandburg last fall as an adjunct faculty member.

“I tried to make it feel more like a job than a classroom and to get along with everyone so that they all felt comfortable to come to me with anything,” Milligan said. “It’s laid back, but we’re there for one purpose: To learn how to weld.”

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual pay for welders in 2019 was $42,490 ($20.43 per hour), and the industry is projected to add 14,500 new welders from 2018-2028. Having that educational background can be the thing that puts an applicant over the top.

“If you put a stack of papers on a desk for applications, yours will be on top to be reviewed because it has that certificate with it,” Milligan said. “It will open the hiree’s eyes to say, ‘Hey, this person's got the credentials for it.’ I'm looking forward to pushing the students to do their best and hopefully fall in love with something and find career in it.”

For students interested in learning more about Sandburg welding programs, contact the Welcome Center at 309.345.3500 or welcomecenter@sandburg.edu.


Carl Sandburg College welding instructor Ian Milligan (middle) discusses making repairs to a metal trellis with students Josh Brooks (left) and Conner Ojeda (right) in December 2019. Milligan, who joined the College in 2019 as an adjunct instructor, was recently hired as Sandburg’s new full-time welding instructor.


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Aaron Frey