Graduate Connections – Meet April Long

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April, 27, from Willis, Texas, graduated the Professional Welder program at Tulsa Welding School & Technology Center in Houston in July 2021.

Thanks for your time, April. What brought you to welding?

I actually first enrolled in Tulsa Welding School in 2015, but I had to drop out about four months into the program because I discovered I was pregnant. For the safety of my baby and myself, I couldn’t be around welding. Then my life turned in a different direction and it took me a while to find my way back to welding.

What work did you do before coming back to Tulsa?

I have always been a worker. I’ve been in or around construction most of my life, asphalt mostly. But I worked as a correctional officer for the past two and a half years before I came back to welding school.

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Why did you choose to come back to welding?

I’d gotten tired of working at the prison. I had to do 16-hour shifts four or five days in a row, and then also work for my parents on the side just to be able to pay my bills and buy groceries. I fully believe in taking a leap of faith, so I re-enrolled in Tulsa Welding School, knowing God had my back. I knew I was never going to go anywhere in life unless I put my trust in God, so that’s what I did. I needed a good career, and I knew that welding could give me a good life. So, I took a leap and went back to school.

Were you able to pick up where you left off the program six years ago?

No, I had to start over. It had been too long. But the school worked with me because my situation was pretty unique; why I had to drop out the first time and with the COVID relief program for students. Honestly, I wasn’t sure I could work, being a mom to a five-year-old and going back to school, but I did it. I had to figure it out because the life I had wasn’t the life for me. I wanted more for me and my son, Thomas, than living paycheck to paycheck. I also wanted to be home with Thomas every night; it may not be for very long before he goes to bed, but I am home with him every single night!

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Had you ever done any welding before you first enrolled at the school?

No, I’d never done any welding, but I grew up around it. I wanted a career where I could work with my hands. When I was younger, I had the opportunity to maybe go to school to be an engineer through a company I was working with, but it wasn’t for me. I wanted to work with my hands and to try something different, something I’d never done before. I thought I would enjoy it, be able to make a living out of it, and have it as a hobby. I wanted to make money doing something I would love to do.

What did you enjoy most about Tulsa Welding School?

The people. They really care about you and your goals; they really go above and beyond. That meant a lot to me as a single mom. I just really enjoyed the environment, the instructors, the people. I also made a couple of really decent friends there that I hope to stay in touch with as we move on with our careers.

What shift did you do at school?

I did the morning class, 7:00 a.m. to around 12:15 p.m., and then I worked part-time at the prison. I had a roommate in my house until April, so that helped with bills, as well as working part-time. But when my lease was up in April, I moved in with a family member. Now that I’m working, I actually just got approved for a mortgage loan, so I’m looking to buy a house soon.

That’s awesome, congratulations! So where are you working?

I work for Sabre Industries in Conroe, Texas. I finished school on Friday July 9th and started Monday July 12th. I assemble the big telephone towers the guys climb.

Did you work with Career Services to get the job?

I did; Ms. Montanya Charles in Career Services really did a lot for me. Sabre came to a job fair at the school, and I was the first person she pulled up to interview that same day because she knew I had to go to work. It went well, and I went up to Conroe for a weld test. They called a week later to say I passed!

Are you excited by the opportunities and the pay?

I’m very happy with it, actually. I’m scheduled from 7:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., but sometimes I work as late as 6:30 p.m. They’re pretty good at telling me ahead of time what the week looks like, so I can plan, which is nice. It’s Monday through Friday and occasional Saturdays. Anything over 40 hours a week is overtime. I’m happy getting a good paycheck and working all these overtime hours because it will all be worth it.

What’s your career plan from here?

My first goal is stay here at Sabre for a good while and get my experience. My end goal is to get my CWI certification to become a welding inspector, and also to have my own fabrication shop one day. I’d like to work for myself, make money doing my own thing: that’s always been my goal. I’d like to have my own truck with a little rig set-up on it and be able to work from home. Building barbecue pits, home décor, fixing peoples fences or gates, just simple stuff like that. I’d like to be home more to teach my son things.

What do you enjoy most about your new trade?

For one, I love the fact that I’m a woman welder! It’s a shock to some people, but I like that. Besides that, the main thing for me is whenever I’m welding, I get a sense of satisfaction when something turns out nice. If I’ve been working super hard on something but haven’t gotten it down, when I finally get it, I’m really proud of myself. It’s so rewarding. I’m genuinely passionate about it. When the work turns out nice, it makes me happy.

Did you make some lasting connections at school? People you will stay in touch with.

I made three decent friends I still talk with and have on Facebook. And we still all have a group chat that we drop in on. We are actually all talking about meeting up soon and going to the beach or something.

What advice do you have for students to be successful at TWS?

You’ve got to be determined. You will get frustrated, especially if welding is something you’ve never done before. Don’t get overwhelmed. When you get frustrated, step back, take a breath, then reevaluate everything you’re doing. Don’t get discouraged; welding is an art form, so it takes time to learn.

So, you have to be determined to get through the rough patches?

I firmly believe that you can do anything you put your mind to. That was the situation with me. I said to myself that I was going to graduate and get a welding job before I got out of school. That’s what I did. Whatever you want in life, you’ll get, if you work for it. You can’t just say you want something and wait for it to fall in your hands. You’ve got to put in the work. I wanted a better life, and nobody but me was going to give that to my son and me. I had to do something to change my life, and I did.

If you’re a TWS graduate and would like to share your success and be an inspiration to others, please email [email protected] to be considered for a Graduate Connection interview. Please include details such as your graduation date (month/year), program, and campus name (Tulsa/Jacksonville/Houston).