Right, I definitely agree with the necessity of having a professional welder be properly trained, no matter how long it takes.
However, coming back to what moslydeaf was talking about, what I'm actually interested in is a program for those inner city kids, and not for people who would necessarily want to graduate with a degree in Welding and Fabrication. For example, something like a BAJA SAE competition is a fairly complex project (certainly harder than most public art installations), that has the weld samples from the vehicle's roll cage being checked by the tech inspectors before the competitions due to the danger that would otherwise be present to the drivers. The welders, however, do not need to be licensed - a good number of my own friends participated in working on the vehicles in the last few years, most of them having received the same minuscule amount of MIG and TIG welding training as I have. A program for projects like that would be a quick and fairly painless introduction for people wanting to learn the basics, but unfortunately I'm just not aware of any public entity in my city that would provide it.