This is Their Story Behind Their Welding Start
I don’t know about you, but I find true-life stories to be the most interesting especially when it is about welding. I like to hear about where people come from and how they landed where they are now. “Based on a true story” is the best marketing hook to get me to fork over money to see a movie or buy a book.
So, I really enjoyed reading the accounts of three “Welding Wire” readers who responded to the newsletter’s request to share how they began their weld careers. While the stories have some similarities, each is unique, as are the stories of each and every one of us.
Jackie J. took welding classes throughout three years (1967-1970) at the “real Carson High School” in Carson City, NV. Just as they announced the drawing down of troops in Vietnam, I got my draft notice and was ordered to report for induction into the military. At the time, I was 20 years old, working for the State of Nevada for Central Data Processing, and didn’t know what to do.
“Ultimately, the Selective Service Board put me in the best Photo Recon unit, the Nevada Air National Guard, as a welder in vehicle maintenance. I started out as a welder and also had to cross train into general purpose/special purpose mechanic as well.
“I learned how to stick/TIG weld; we didn’t have MIG at the time. I spent 28+ years as a traditional guardsman doing that. Around 1988, I started taking welding classes at WNCC to work on getting AWS certifications, which I did do. I also learned how to MIG/flux-core weld, which has been very good. My wife also became a certified welder.
After I retired from the state (30 years) and the National Guard (28+ years), I started a mobile weld business (17+ years) and volunteered at Lone Mountain Cemetery. I pick up a lot of work from former co-workers, classmates, friends, and family. I also do some welding work for Carson City Parks and Recreation and have mentored several Eagle Scout candidates with their projects that involve welding. I have also done a fair amount of welding work for a couple of the funeral homes in town.
“Sometimes I wonder, “Did I really say yes to do this job?” But for the most part, I enjoy welding and fabricating things for people. I also like to joke that welding “keeps me out of jail and the emergency room.” HaHa! I have subbed for the welding instructor at what is now Carson High School and was a TA off and on at the welding lab at WNC over the last 5+ years. There have been some moments, but for the most part, I really have enjoyed welding as a second career.”
Carl M. began his journey around the same time as Jackie. “I got the welding bug, during high school. I come from three generations of bricklayers, and my summers were working with my dad laying brick. I graduated from high school in 1966 and was drafted into the army in 1966. Went to Vietnam, 1967-68; got out of the army at the end of 1968; took my VA benefits and went to welding school for 18 months.
“Got my first welding job in 1970. Worked all over for 13 years. I came to work for the company I work for now in 1983 have been here ever since.
“I TIG weld repair turbine aircraft engine parts—just about every kind of material you can think of. I turned 70 in October and have no thoughts of retiring.”
And then there is Wally S., who also took welding classes and served in the armed forces. No longer doing welds, he remains in the industry. “I do not work has a welder but did go to the Cleveland School of Welding (now defunct). I have spent the last 40 years in the welding business involved with the manufacturing and marketing of filler metals.
“Way back when I got out of the Army, having served my four years as a helicopter pilot, I was in a quandary about what career to pursue. I went back to the welding distributor I had been working for before the army to see about a job.
“Two jobs for inside sales were open the day I showed up for the interview. Two jobs and two candidates. Tony and I flipped a coin; he got steel tubing and I got to weld.
“No regrets on my part.”
You could say the industry has been very good to Jackie, Carl, Wally, and many others. Blogger Josh Welton has written about some younger welders who love what they do in his “Still Building America” series on thefabricator.com.
The industry continues to attract younger welders, although maybe not to the degree necessary to fill the demand. Industry and educational programs are making a concerted effort to try and interest more of them. You can read about the success of one such program and a recent graduate in “Women in welding on the rise.”