Britton, 27, is from a town called South Coffeeville, Oklahoma, about a mile south of Coffeeville, Kansas, so right on the border. Britton graduated the Professional Welder program at Tulsa Welding School in 2018.
Thanks for your time, Britton. What did you do before enrolling at welding school?
I started out playing college baseball for a year. But it wasn’t really my thing, it wasn’t what I thought it was going to be. So, then I went back to rodeoing. I rode bulls all over the country on a college scholarship at Southwestern Oklahoma State University. Then I joined the Oklahoma National Guard. I went to basic training and did all that fun stuff for the Army. I went to Germany for six weeks as part of that, and then I came home and met my wife. I then moved to Bristow, Oklahoma, about 30 minutes southwest of Tulsa.
Thank you for your service. Are you still in the National Guard?
I am. One weekend a month. I’m a sergeant now.
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Where did the idea of welding come from?
After I did my basic training, I didn’t have a job. I didn’t know how to do anything else well but rodeo. But I did grow up on a farm. I knew how to weld a little, enough to get by at least. I had just a little welding knowledge and I knew welders make great money, so I thought, “Let’s get after it!” and I signed up.
About a week later I saw on Facebook that a company called GoBob Pipe needed a welder. I went to see them, and they wanted somebody to start a welding shop. Since I didn’t have a job and I’d just enrolled at Tulsa Welding School, I figured, why not? I was learning how to weld at Tulsa Welding School at night and then taking what they taught me back to work. During the day, I taught myself to weld on the job.
That’s quite the schedule.
I was working 12 hours at GoBob, then going to school at night till 11:30 p.m., then going home to sleep for a couple hours before getting back up, going back to work.
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They hired you based on your limited welding knowledge, and your attitude, I guess.
Yeah. But they build cattle equipment: gates, shoots, alleyways, everything you need to work cattle. And I’ve been around cattle my whole life. So, I already knew what kind of tools it took to work cattle and what kind of concepts we needed. We’d have people come in and tell me what they needed, and what their set-up was. They’d say I need this built for this situation, and I could do it fine. I knew what they needed.
What did you enjoy most about Tulsa Welding School?
Probably learning the TIG process. I knew how to run Stick and I knew how to run MIG already, but I had never run TIG. Getting to learn something new was probably the most fun part for me. I also got to meet a lot of new people. That was fun too.
Did you find the program hard, or did it come easy to you with your experience?
It was pretty straightforward, to be honest. I’ve always been one of those people who’s not going to be told I can’t do something. I got in there, I worked at it, and I figured it out. I worked it until I got it done. Perseverance is what you need.
With your schedule and going to night class, you couldn’t stay late or come in early to practice?
No, but I was welding all day long and then welding all night at school. By the end of the day, after class, I was just ready to go to sleep.
Tell us what you’ve done since graduating welding school in 2018.
I stayed with GoBob through welding school, but he didn’t want to pay me more after school. My father-in-law is also a welder, and at the time he was running a shop over in west Tulsa called War Metals. He offered me a job in 2019. All I did was MIG, and I just tacked wire. They were long, boring days, but here we are four years later. My father-in-law has moved on, and the owner now has me as supervisor over the whole shop, and I’m making good money.
What do you build?
We weld the structures for air coolers. MIG and Flux Core mostly.
I understand you were back in Tulsa Welding School recently looking for welders, is that right?
Since I took over the shop, I hire young guys and girls who are in welding school. I feel like they can go to Tulsa and learn all they want in welding school, but when you come out of that school, if you don’t have experience, you don’t know real-world welding. I bring them in and by the time they leave, they have that mix of valuable real-world welding experience with us and the education from Tulsa. Both are important.
How many students have you had go through War Metals?
I think we’re at five Tulsa Welding School students. One of them went to work in New Mexico, one is going to Alaska, and one is going to South Texas. And we’ve got two more who just graduated.
So, what’s your own career plan from here?
Well, I still rodeo. I fight bulls now. I’m the guy that protects the bull rider when they get off of the bull. So, I grab the bull by the horns and get his attention. On top of that, I started my own welding business on the side. I weld up corrals and I build things for people. I guess, in the long run, I want enough work for myself that I can just have my own business. But at War Metals, they do take care of us. They treat us really well. I make pretty good money for around here, so it’d be hard to leave. Besides, for a guy who’s just 27 years old, there aren’t a lot of people who have faith in guys my age to run their shop or run their business.
A family man now. Surely you are getting too old to be messing with bulls!
I am getting a little old for it now. I’ve had knee surgeries. I’ve had lacerated lungs, punctured lungs, a broken eye socket, I’ve torn my shoulders. I got to a point where I couldn’t do anything on top of the bulls anymore. But I love bucking bulls so much, and I love rodeo so much, that I couldn’t just walk away yet. I’ve only got a few more years. My boy’s going to start playing ball in a couple years, and when he starts playing sports, my rodeo time will be done. I’ll walk away from it.
Let’s hope you can still walk away from it! What do you enjoy most about welding?
I get to take something that’s on a piece of paper and turn it into something that works. I get to build something out of nothing.
Did you stay in touch with people you met, connections you made, at school?
Yeah, for a while a few of us kept in touch, but it’s coming up on five years since welding school, and I’ve had two kids since. Your life changes, and people have kind of moved on.
Last question – what advice do you have for new students to be successful at TWS?
Ask as many questions as you can, and stay in your booth.
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).