Courtney, 18, is from Anniston, Alabama. He graduated from the seven-month Professional Welder program at Tulsa Welding School in Jacksonville in January 2022.
Thanks for your time, Courtney. Did you come to Tulsa Welding School from high school?
Yes, I went down there straight out of high school. I was still 17.
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So, what made you think about coming to welding school at 17?
I started welding as a senior in high school. We had a welding class, but I didn’t take welding serious until my twelfth-grade year. When I got close to graduation, I had to figure out what I was going to do with my life after I graduated, so I decided on welding.
How did you decide on Tulsa Welding School?
A Tulsa Welding School recruiter came to visit our school; he talked about the school and the potential of a welding career. I liked that the TWS program was all hands-on, and that it was only seven months. That’s not a long time at all; I’d much rather to do that than go to a four-year college. Honestly, the fact that it was a fast program is what interested me the most.
How were your family with you moving out-of-state alone at 17?
They were alright, okay with it; they wanted me to do something with my life. Of course, they missed me!
And how did you feel? Moving states is a big deal for a 17-year-old.
I felt good about it. I was nervous at first, but once I got down there and looked around, got a feel for the place, it was alright. I went down there with four friends from high school who were all going to welding school. The five of us found a place to live together.
What did you enjoy most about your time at Tulsa Welding School?
I enjoyed the instructors a lot, especially how much they were willing to help you, the time they find for you. I had no problem getting access to them. You can ask them about anything, and they don’t get frustrated. They just go along with you as you’re learning the trade.
You mentioned the recruiter told you how much hands-on time there would be, was that true?
Yes sir, it was. There was really no class time at all, straight in the shop welding. We had one online class and then four days hands-on in the shop.
What shift did you do at school? Did you have a job too?
I did the morning shift at school and worked in the afternoon. I had a fast-food job. I tried to stay on at school and practice about twice a week; I’d try to stay for an extra two or three hours.
How did you find the program? Was it hard?
I got frustrated with it from time to time, but I just battled through. Some people struggled more than me, but you’ve just got to push through.
So, you graduated less than a month ago, who are you working for?
I work for W International in Goose Creek, just outside of Charleston, South Carolina. We build submarines.
That’s very cool. How did you get the job?
A recruiter from W International came to TWS close to graduation time and offered us jobs there. One of my high school friends who went to Tulsa with me came here too.
Excellent. Did you have to take a weld test?
No, but I’m doing five-weeks of training right now.
Did you move straight to SC from Florida?
No, I went back to Alabama when I graduated. I thought I’d find a job back home first just to get a feel for welding in the field, but the people I spoke to were only hiring experienced welders. After looking for a couple of weeks and getting the responses I got, I emailed the W International recruiter back and asked him when was the soonest availability that I’d be able to start. I started with this week, February 2nd.
How are you enjoying South Carolina?
It’s okay, it’s kind of expensive compared to home. I’m not used to the cost of living down here. I’m in a hotel at the moment, but I’m going to get my own place soon.
Are you happy with the money you’ve started on?
Yes sir! They started me on $18/hour and I’m okay with that for someone with no experience. They say I’ll get a raise after 30 days. Once we get done with training, my schedule will be Monday through Friday with overtime potential. Overtime is time and a half on Fridays and Saturdays, double time on Sundays.
A few hours of double time will boost that paycheck! How does it feel one week in?
It feels like a good place after one week. They teach you the way they want things done. They don’t just throw you out there on the floor not knowing anything. It’s exciting that they take the time to teach you their welding process. Tulsa doesn’t teach the process they do here. Tulsa is the foundation you build on.
What’s your career plan from here?
I really haven’t thought about that yet, as I’ve just started. I really don’t know. This could be a place to grow and progress and develop my career, but who knows. I like stability; I’m not sure I’d like the traveling welder life. But going to welding school means I have options.
What do you enjoy most about your new trade?
I like the creativity, and the fact that you can stand back and say, “I built that!” after you’re done. When you’re standing there welding and it comes out nice, that’s a good feeling.
Watching the first submarine launch that you’ve worked on will be pretty cool!
Yes sir! I think they have everyone come out and look at it. I hope so, that would be cool.
What do your parents think of your success?
My parents are very proud of me; when I get my own place, they’ll be coming up to visit me soon. It’s only about a six-hour drive from home.
Did you make some connections at Tulsa? People you will stay in touch with.
No, not really. I mean I communicated with people at school, but I never really became friends with anyone, or ask for their numbers or anything like that. I did meet some good people at the school though. I have numbers for a couple of the instructors.
What advice would you give to students considering Tulsa Welding School?
Go to school every day and be on time. Don’t ever be afraid to ask questions, and just practice, practice, practice. When you get frustrated, just take a little break, and get back to it when you’ve calmed down. Just stay focused really if it’s something you really want to do. You’re going to have some obstacles, but you’ve just got to keep going.
How does it feel to be done with school and out there working, and be just 18?
It feels good to know that I’m working; I’m not still at high school or doing four years of college like many kids my age. Some people I went to school with haven’t finished their first year of college and I’m building submarines!
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).