Jeremiah, 21, was born in Fresno, CA; he was raised in Mexico before moving back to the U.S. at the age of 14. The family settled in Houston in 2014, where Jeremiah attended high school. He graduated from the Welding Specialist program at Tulsa Welding School & Technology Center in Houston in August 2020.
Thanks for your time Jeremiah; tell us what you did after high school before welding school?
I had on and off jobs, just regular jobs really; I spent most of my time working in a restaurant, first as a bus boy and then as a waiter. But I always wanted to do something else, to get a skill, to do something better. I wanted a career, something that paid more!
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What made you think of welding?
I didn’t have much money, so I was looking at college careers, but I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I was talking with a friend and her family about someone they are close to who is a welder. He’s the same age as me and was making a pretty good living. He graduated high school the same year as me and went straight to welding school. In two years since high school, doing the jobs I was doing, I just wasn’t making enough money, I wasn’t going anywhere, and this guy was already well into his career. So, I started to look into welding and discovered that yes, welders can make a pretty good living. But like anything you have to start at the bottom and work your way to the top. So, I decided to give it a shot.
Had you ever done any welding?
No, I didn’t do any welding in high school, or anywhere before welding school.
What did you enjoy most about Tulsa Welding School?
I really liked the environment. The instructors were very friendly; you can talk to any of them even if they aren’t your assigned instructor. You can ask anyone for help or advice. My classmates were cool; some of them had welded before and some had no experience like me, but everybody was chill. It was cool.
Did you find the program hard to start with?
I didn’t know there were different welding processes, like MIG and TIG, and I didn’t know the different jobs you can do within welding. At the beginning, with no experience, it was a little difficult, but as I did more welding, I got really into it. The more I got into it, the more I liked it. I never regretted going.
Did you get frustrated at all?
A little, until I got the hang of it. But once you get into it, you enjoy it. When you’re learning if you mess up, you can do it again. It’s not like you only have a certain amount of chances or material. You have to practice, and then practice more. That’s something I really liked about the school; they give you all the tools, all the work gear, and all the materials you need to just keep practicing until you get better.
Where are you working?
Congratulations! How is it going?
This is my third week and I’m really enjoying it; it’s a pretty good environment, everybody is really helpful. At school they tell you to be ready for anything in your first job, but it’s pretty good. I’m working with different types of metals, using measures. I’m working with a crew of three other guys and they have me doing real hands-on stuff, not little stuff on the side because I’m the new guy.
Is there a pathway to direct employment, rather than working through the agency?
Hopefully. They are going to re-evaluate me after 90 days, and if they like progress and what I am doing, I hope they will take me on as a direct employee in a couple of months.
Are you happy with the money you’re making?
Yes, I got my first check last week and even after taxes, there is still a pretty good amount left each week. If I’m taken on as a direct employee, I will be making a little more. I’m fine with where I am right now, and grateful for the opportunity to practice welding aluminum because I didn’t weld aluminum at Tulsa. We got an introduction to MIG welding in school, but they are helping me learn and get better.
Get used to paying taxes Jeremiah! How did you get the job?
Mr. Marquis in the Career Services office was the one who set me up with TPI Staffing; he helped me with my résumé and arranged interviews; every time I had an interview he would call or text to see how it went. He was really helpful; I appreciate him. I started working with career services when I had about two months to go. The first thing we did was work on my résumé, and then started applying.
Where do you see your welding career going?
I really enjoy welding, and I’m fine with what I’m doing right now. But eventually I would like to get a job welding TIG. That’s my favorite kind of welding. I’d like to save some of the money I’m going to be making, and one day invest in a small business of some kind. I don’t know whether that will be a welding business or not…let’s see what the future brings!
So, you don’t want to travel or weld on the pipeline maybe?
At the moment I still live with my parents and they are getting older, so I’d like to stay local for now. But in the future they will go back to Mexico, as they will have a more comfortable life over there. When that day comes and I’m by myself here, I’d like to give it a try. Travel around and see what I find!
Do you enjoy telling people what you do for a living?
I do. When I tell people I’m a welder, I like to see their faces as they are a little shocked! I’m not a big dude, I’m kind of a small guy, I’m 5’5”. They don’t expect me to say I’m a welder as I don’t look like the kind of guy that would be a welder!
What do you enjoy most about your new trade?
I like working as part of a team; in this job, they have groups of three or four working as trailer buddies.
Did you make some lasting connections, some friends, at the school?
I did make some friends; you meet some pretty good people at that school. Everybody comes from different places and backgrounds. Before I started, I thought everyone would have welding or construction backgrounds, but most people were like me…coming from restaurants or grocery stores. They were just people like me who wanted something better for themselves. I’m really only still in touch with one guy. He’s off doing the bigger jobs, traveling welding, so maybe we can do that together one day.
What advice would you give to new students for them to be successful at TWS?
Don’t give up, just hang in there especially if you have to work a part-time job to get through school. There may be days where you’re tired and just can’t face school, but don’t give up because it’s so worth it. The feeling you get when you receive your diploma, the excitement you’ll feel when you get your first welding job, and the double-excitement when you get your first welding paycheck! It’s so worth it. Try as hard as you can, and you’ll make it through. Everybody can make it through if you work hard and stay consistent.
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).