Kevin, 25, from Houston, Texas, graduated the Professional Welder program at Tulsa Welding School & Technology Center in Houston in May 2022.
Thanks for your time, Kevin; what did you do before coming to welding school?
We had a family business; we did floor care work – stripping wax, carpet cleaning, epoxy, polishing – regular floor maintenance work. I did that for seven years straight out of high school with my dad. As the years went by it wasn’t something I did because I liked it, I did it mostly because of my dad. But COVID hit us very hard; work slowed way down because most of our jobs came from emergency rooms and hospitals. But that meant I was finally able to pursue my dream of welding.
Where did that ‘dream of welding’ come from?
It started when I was around 15 years old. One of my uncles was a welder and I knew that he made pretty good money. Obviously, people always want to pursue something that’s going to make them some money, so that’s where the idea first came from. Then I came across some YouTube welding video; it caught my interest, and it just became something that I really wanted to do once I graduated high school. But unfortunately, it wasn’t something I was able to do back then, as I needed to help my dad.
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Did the flooring business recover after COVID?
Yes, it worked out well for everybody. It was a struggle at the beginning, but my dad is doing very well now. Business is actually booming at the moment for him too, and our relationship is definitely way better now that we are not working together anymore!
That’s awesome! Did you do any welding in high school?
No, the school I went to didn’t provide welding classes.
So, you gave Tulsa Welding School a call and went for a tour? Did you consider any other programs?
It was Welding and Pipefitting that caught my attention, but I didn’t continue with the pipefitting due to financial circumstances on my end. I needed to get to work. So, before I graduated Tulsa, I started looking for welding jobs and was lucky enough to find one. I graduated on a Friday, my last day of school, and the following Monday I was already working.
Congratulations. What class did you do, and did you have to work as well?
I did the morning class at TWS; 7am to Noon. Then I worked from 3pm to 10pm at an auto parts store.
Did you take the opportunity to get extra practice in the welding booth?
Yeah, definitely. I’d stay after school on my days off and I would sometimes go in on my weekends as well. Welding is all about practice and repetition; the more time you can spend in the booth the better.
What did you enjoy most about your experience at Tulsa Welding School?
What I enjoyed most, aside from learning the necessary welding skills I need for my career, was that I was able to make some really good friends. They’re not just friends anymore, they’re basically family. It’s those friendships you make along the way with people that you go through something with, you share an experience with, you know? It bonds you.
I get that. Shared experiences make you tighter. Did you find the program hard at times?
I had my difficulties at the beginning of each phase. I like to say that the effort that you put in is the outcome that you get. So, it’s all up to you. Whatever work you put in is what you’ll get back.
Did you ever have days where you thought about quitting?
It never got to that situation. If something got that frustrating, you’ve just got to keep on moving on. Don’t lose your patience and it will come; you’ll get it as long as you keep trying. If you’re struggling through something, the teachers are great. The teachers will help you as long as you talk to them. They’re more than willing to always help you out.
You briefly mentioned your job earlier, where are you working?
I work for Tricon Precast Ltd. I’m welding metal box molds that they use to mold the concrete.
How did you get the job? Did Career Services help you?
Bridget in Career Services definitely helped a lot. They’d send me emails about job opportunities and interviews, but this job I found on my own. My wife’s grandpa used to work there; he was a welder too. I asked for some help to get my foot in the door, and my wife’s aunt called a guy she knew. I was offered an interview, passed the weld test, and was hired! As I said earlier, I finished class Friday and started work on the Monday.
What’s your schedule? Do you get overtime?
Monday through Saturday, I go in at 5am, and I come out at 2.30pm. But, yes, if there’s more work to do, then I’ll leave at 4pm, 5pm, or maybe 6pm.
What’s your career plan from here?
I’ll stay with Tricon for a while to build my skillset. We’ll see where life goes from here. My career plan is to have my own welding business one day; maybe have my own shop. I’m still working on the idea, trying to figure out what my shop would weld. But for sure, I’d like to own my own welding business one day.
Do you have any desire to do any traveling welding?
I’m staying local. I did enough traveling already with the previous business. Especially with my son getting a little bit older. He’s five years old, going on six now. The older he got, the harder it got to leave home in my last job. So, definitely, I’m going to stay local.
What do you enjoy most about being a welder?
What I enjoy most about being a welder is that there’s always something new to do and something new to learn. It’s just a never-ending learning curve, you know? There will always be something new to learn.
Did you make some lasting connections, some friends at school you’ll stay in touch with?
Yes, I’ve got a network. The friends I made, we still keep in contact, and we still make time to see each other. Most of them are still local for the moment.
What advice do you have for students to be successful at Tulsa Welding School?
My advice would be to always be on time, always put in the work, and never give up. The moment you give up is when all is lost really, so don’t.
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).