Graduate Connections – Meet Keyronic Stewart

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Keyronic, 37, from Jackson, Louisiana, graduated the Professional Welder program at Tulsa Welding School & Technology Center in Houston in July 2021.

Thanks for your time Keyronic; tell us a little about your background.

I graduated high school in 2003, but it took me a while to find a direction. I went to a driving academy to learn to drive trucks in 2012, then I was an over-the-road truck driver until 2014. I stopped driving as they wouldn’t give me enough home time; my daughter was born in 2012 and I wasn’t home enough. I started working for Turner Industries; I worked maintenance at a plant for about a year and a half. My brother worked at their fab shop, so he got me transferred over there and they taught me to TIG weld in 2015.

How long did you do that?

I only worked there for a couple of years until 2017, because I was in a bad car accident. I suffered three blood clots on the brain and had to re-learn everything – including how to walk straight again. I wasn’t able to work for three years; I was recuperating, working on myself until last year when I got back to 100%. I moved to Houston in March 2020 when the pandemic started. I needed a change of environment, and my daughter and her mother were already here. So, I was at home with my daughter and her mother – now my fiancé – helping my daughter with her home schooling. That’s when I decided to go to welding school.

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Why did you decide to go to welding school?

I knew how to TIG weld, but I wanted to learn it all. I figured since I liked welding, why not go to welding school to learn it all? So, one day I got on the laptop, typed in welding schools, and Tulsa Welding School in Houston came up. I started the program in December of 2020.

What did you enjoy most about Tulsa Welding School?

My instructors. They really pushed me to be better because I knew how to TIG already. My instructors – Ms. Rosa, Mr. Carlos, and Mr. Daniels – pushed me to be the greatest welder I could be. They wouldn’t accept my welds unless they were almost flawless, especially Ms. Rosa. I’d go turn in my welds and she would tell me, “It’s good, but I know you can do better!” A 70 is a pass, but they wanted me to get a 91 or better.

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Is knowing TIG helpful when it comes to learning the other welding processes?

It is because you know how to control your puddle and what you are looking for in the techniques. They would do a demo and I would go into my booth and come out pretty quick. The instructors always thought I must have done the process before, even if I hadn’t. So, yes, it is an advantage. MIG was entirely different ball game for me, but I caught on to that pretty quick too.

Did you use your experience to help your classmates?

Yes, I was always helping other students, especially if Ms. Rosa was busy helping someone, she would tell them to come and see me. I always enjoy helping others…it’s just the way I was raised by mom and my grandmother. Being a little older, I was like a big brother. A couple of them still call me to this day.

You graduated a month ago, where are you working?

I’m working at Travis Body & Trailer here in Houston, Texas. We build big commercial trailers. I’m doing MIG welding for them; I’m building the boxes; I’m welding the walls of the trailers. I’m enjoying it.

How did you get the job?

Ms. Montanya Charles in Career Services helped me. The school had job fairs every Wednesday in July. Once I graduated, I told Ms. Montanya I was trying to find a job, but doing applications online was going to take me a minute because no-one was responding. She emailed me the flyer that Travis Trailers had given her. I went over there, took their weld test, passed it and I’ve been working there since August 2nd.

Congratulations – are you happy with the money you’re making?

I feel good about it. I haven’t been working for four years, so it’s been a minute. When I was TIG welding the company paid a little more than I’m making now because we were working on pipes that went out to the pipeline. But it’s good for me; I’m paying my bills, living off it. I could get a raise in 90 days based on my work performance, so it’s good for me. I work 7:00am to 4:30pm Monday to Friday, and some Saturdays.

What’s your career plan from here?

I want to be a CWI – Certified Welding Inspector – really. I just need to get my field experience in before I can go for that. One day I’d also like to have my own welding truck with a welding machine on it. I’d like to be able to rent that out to different welders, different companies.

What do you enjoy most about your new trade?

I just enjoy the craftsmanship of making something; watching it come together you could say. I like how I can take small pieces or big pieces of metal, the size doesn’t matter, and make it all come together. Also knowing that your work is very important is satisfying.

Did you make some last connections at school? People you will stay in touch with.

Yes, I would say I made two good friends. One graduated with me a month ago, and the other’s last day is today. I’m trying to get them to come to work here at Travis. One of them came up here just last week. They are going to call him back because they are waiting on more material to come in. Ever since that ship got caught up in the Suez Canal in March, material has been slow coming in. I’ve told him to keep calling and let them know that he’s interested in the job.

 

What advice do you have for new students to be successful at TWS?

Be focused, and go in ready to work, ready to give it your all. Pay attention to what the instructors tell you, every detail. You’ve got to be there every day because you don’t know what you’re going to miss. Missing a day is like missing a week at a regular school, and you’ll fall behind quick. You’ve got to be in there welding. I can spend all day telling you how to weld, but if you’re not in there hands-on doing it, you’re not going to get it.

 

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).