Jacob, 25, born in Weatherford, and raised in Fort Worth, Texas, graduated the Professional Welder program at Tulsa Welding School in April 2022.
Thanks for your time, Jacob. What did you do before enrolling at welding school?
After high school, I jumped right into roadside construction. We’d find old beat-up roads, tear them out, and make them better. I did that for about four or five years until I found welding and really got into it.
Where did the idea of welding come from?
My grandfather had an old welding machine. It just sat around unused because he wasn’t a welder. He would just tack things up from time to time. One day, probably about four years ago, I asked him if I could see what it does. He gave me a hood, a pair of gloves and said, “Here you go!” And you know, I fell I love with welding right after I struck my first arc.
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Why did it take you a couple more years to decide to go to welding school?
When I was doing roadside construction, I did the same thing every day. When I struck my first arc, I really enjoyed it. I found myself, almost subconsciously, watching more and more YouTube videos on welding. I saw where people were going, what they were doing. Some guys were working pipelines, some guys were doing plant work. It made me think that if I went to school, I could do this awesome stuff too! The idea kind of built up in my mind over time, and a couple of years later, I finally decided to go to welding school.
Why did you decide on Tulsa Welding School?
I was torn between a school in Wyoming and Tulsa Welding School. I compared prices and Tulsa was about $10k cheaper, and it was roughly the same timeline. I went with somewhere cheaper and closer to home where I didn’t have to travel states away.
What did you enjoy most about Tulsa Welding School?
The instructors, and the people I was in class with. The instructors were awesome, very knowledgeable. If you had a question, 90% of the time they had an answer. They’d help you fix any problem you had. It was the same with the people I was in class with. Some of them knew a little more than I did and when I had a problem, I’d go to my classmates before I went to an instructor. Sometimes they could help me out first.
And your classmates were happy to help?
Yeah, actually a lot of people were. I felt like we all understood that we were in the same boat; we all wanted to get to the same place. We all wanted to see each other succeed.
Did you have frustrations? Days where you thought, I’m never going to get this?
I had plenty of those days! There would be times where I would try, and I’d keep failing and failing. It got to the point actually, when I went home after class and told my fiancée (now wife), “I’m done! I can’t get this; I’m not going to get it!” She would say, “Go back tomorrow with a cool head and you’ll get it.” And believe it or not, the next day I would finish it, and all would be good again!
Sometimes you just have to take a breath; not let it beat you!
Yeah, that’s true. Once you get frustrated, if you keep doing it over and over again, you’re going to mess something up really bad. You’ll get the point where you’ll have to completely restart, or it’s just going to continuously frustrate you. You have to get your mind right. In my opinion, welding is simple. It is easy. It just takes practice, and more practice. That’s all it is. It’s like anything else.
So, tell us about getting your first job after school last year.
As school came to an end, I wasn’t really looking for a job and I regret that. Once I started looking, it took me about a month to find a job. I did production work in my first job; I really enjoyed it. We built steel concrete forms used in construction. I did that for about four months before I found a better job using a different process. That job was installing stainless steel handrails and stairwells. I enjoyed being outside, doing different things every day. Before I quit, we were doing these luxury condos in Frisco, TX, right across from the Dallas Cowboys practice stadium. I worked in Frisco, Houston, El Paso, and College Station.
So, where are you working now?
A month ago, I started with Sabre Industries in Kennedale, TX. It’s a 326,000 square-foot plant that manufactures utility transmission and telecom poles. It’s kind of doing the same thing every day, but there’s always a different attachment, or a different size pole hole. Every day feels different to me, I’m enjoying it.
So, you’re a year out of school, how is the pay working out for you?
When I got hired on to Sabre, I took a pay cut from my previous job. It didn’t bother me because the hours were there. Less per hour, but more hours every week. I currently work from 3:30 p.m. – 1:00 a.m., Monday through Friday, and if I work Saturdays—which is optional—it’s 2:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m.
Is that better than roadside construction pay?
Yeah. I think I had to work around 80 hours a week to pull what I’m making now in just 53 hours a week.
So, what’s your career plan from here?
I’m actually saving up to get my own welding machine and a couple of bottles to put in the back of my truck. Then I want to save a little more and eventually get my dually. My ultimate goal is to get onto the pipeline. I want to do a year here, maybe a year and a half, then start my own business.
Great plan! You’re married with a child on the way. How will traveling fit with a family?
My wife and I have discussed this several times. We both kind of came to the agreement that if I’m going to do it, it’s best to do it soon when the kid is young and won’t really remember anything. I don’t want my kid to have to remember that his dad was always gone. So, I figure I can put in three or four good years traveling to make good money, and then come up with something closer to home.
What do you enjoy most about welding?
It’s the fact that most things you look at have some kind of welding involved. Especially if you’re building really big projects like we do at Sabre. For example, I can walk out the shop knowing that these huge poles have my welds on them. I can say, “I did that.” It’s like I’m helping keep the power on, I’m helping to keep communication lines up. It makes me feel like I’m actually doing something really important.
You are! Have you stayed in touch with people you met at school?
Yeah, with quite a few. Maybe in the last six weeks of school, six of us started a group chat. It’s a year later and we still talk to each other two, three times a week. We use it to stay in touch, but also to share opportunities. We still have the same mindset we had in school. We all want to see each other succeed. So, if one person has, let’s say, a mining job that needs welder out in Nebraska, then they’ll probably put it in the chat and see if anybody wants to take it. It’s kind of like our own little circle of connections.
Last question – what advice do you have for new students to be successful at TWS?
I’d say just get on and do it. Worst case, you struggle, and that’s fine, too. You’re in school to learn. The instructors are there to help you, and there are multiple ways to weld. If you can’t get it one way, find another. There was a time I purposely messed up a weld because I wanted to ask different instructors to help, to see what techniques they’d use. They all had extremely different ways to solve it, but it always came out to the same outcome. Your mind is your biggest enemy. If you can conquer your mind and have a positive mindset, you can do anything in this world.
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).