Lloyd, 21, from Houston, Texas, graduated the Professional Welder program at Tulsa Welding School & Technology Center in Houston in August 2021.
Thanks for your time, Lloyd; what did you do before coming to welding school?
I graduated high school in 2018 and went to school for a while at Texas A&M Kingsville to be a game warden, but I realized college wasn’t really for me. The way they try to teach there…well I’m more of a hands-on learner. Once I can see things, I can do things. I knew welding was more suitable for me.
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After deciding college wasn’t for you, why did you turn to welding specifically?
Because of two buddies. One buddy, Aaron, did welding through high school and he was welding in Indianapolis. Another buddy, Jeremy, started the TWS welding program a month before me and was talking a lot about it. I’d already been debating between welding school or car mechanic school; either one would have been easier for me than college because I’m a hands-on learner. So really it was just a matter of choice. When I heard Jeremy talk about welding school, I thought, “If he can do it, I can do it too.”
Had you done any welding before welding school?
No, sir. I did some work on ranches and I’d seen welding done; I’m a country boy, I grew up outside of Houston and spent some time in south Texas and there are plenty of welders down there. So, the hands-on work wasn’t anything I wasn’t used to; it was just a matter of seeing it, doing it, and learning it.
What did you enjoy most about Tulsa Welding School?
I would say the passion the teachers have for welding. For me, seeing that passion really made me want to learn. They are so committed; they live it, breathe it, and they really want you to learn it. They are there for you any time of day to ask for help or to provide information. They went so far as to text me to see how I was doing; they will do one-on-ones with you in your booth if you need help, so you can watch their position and hands up close. They will stay and watch you, tell you what you’re doing wrong or right.
They are so hands-on; they want to know your name, you’re not just another student. They take their time to make sure everybody grasps it; they don’t want anyone to fail. They don’t want to have to give you a bad grade; they don’t want to hurt anybody because they know that most students have stuff they’re going through while at school, so they will do their best to help you if they see that you really want to learn. I’m more than a month out of school, and I’m still in touch with the majority of my instructors.
Where are you working?
I’m MIG welding on stainless steel up in Virginia for a company called Tenneco; we’re involved in vehicle production. It’s an amazing job. I got a $1500 relocation bonus; it’s a 10-hour shift, Monday through Thursday…and we get paid every week. Overtime is there, and I want it; I moved here for the work so I’m going to work the weekends. Why sit at home and spend money when I could be at work earning it?
How did you get the job?
I was applying for jobs just before I finished school. I got the offer 10 days after class finished while I was working on a ranch. I didn’t have to do a weld test. After a phone interview they offered me a regular pipe welding position, but after a second phone interview they offered me a better job as a converter welder because of my skills and my passion. They felt I’d be able to take on this job as it’s a little bit harder, a little bit faster. I called two classmates from Tulsa Welding School and got them the same application, the same phone interview, and we all ended up coming up here for the job.
Congratulations! Was getting your first welding job a big moment in your life?
Most definitely. Just moving from Texas to Virginia was a big moment. That was huge. It felt like a long time coming, trying to get somewhere in life. As a young man, you always feel like you should be further in life than you are. To finally be taking big steps, making a name for myself, it means a lot. It feels great to be in another state, to breathe different air, and experience something different. It’s a new chapter in my life.
What’s your career plan from here?
I honestly have a wide variety of plans. Working at Tenneco makes me want to open a muffler shop. It’s sort of the same kind of the work we do here; we build exhaust systems. Being able to work on customers’ exhaust systems and weld stainless steel is something that not many people can master. If you have skills that few people do, you can charge almost what you want. But ultimately, I do want to go back to school to be a game warden, or maybe get into ranch management. I’d like to run my own ranch one day.
While I’m at Tenneco I want to put my own rig together so I can go back home and do some mobile welding. I have quite a few welding jobs that I know I can do down there in Texas – whether that’s MIG or Stick welding. Maybe I’ll work with a couple of other guys and put a little fleet together. We could work together instead of against each other. I’ve always hustled and had a good work ethic; I’ve been working on ranches or in construction/demolition since I was 15 – before Hurricane Harvey – so I’m not afraid of hard work to build up a company. I want to build a little empire to be able to buy my ranch!
What do you enjoy most about being a welder?
That’s a good question. I can honestly say it is the satisfaction of the weld itself. Once you feel the bead, you become one with it. When you weld, you make a puddle from the melted metal you’re working with. As a welder you feel that puddle, you can feel the arc come off it if you pull back too far, if you get to close you can feel the temperature of the metal burn your hand. You need to become one with it – it’s just that experience that I enjoy the most. That’s what they teach you at school; without sounding clichéd they want you to eat, sleep, and breathe welding because they want you to become one with your weld. That’s how you know you want to weld; you were meant to be a welder. For me it’s that feeling, and seeing the finished product look as beautiful as it does when it feels just right. It’s like a high.
Did you make some lasting connections at school?
I tried to do the friend thing in school, but honestly, I felt that was a big problem for me when I went to college. I didn’t focus on the task at hand and become more focused on everybody else’s problems or what other people were going through instead of my own goals. At the end of the day, you can only control your own life, not everybody else’s. I made the decision to keep to myself pretty much. Everybody that goes to TWS gets the same opportunity; they pay the same money, take the same classes, but not everybody will stick to it and see it through because of things happening in their lives. You can’t solve other peoples’ problems, so sometimes it’s best to take a step back from that and just focus on your own goals.
What advice do you have for new students to be successful at TWS?
Don’t be afraid of success. You have to be uncomfortable to get somewhere. Like they say when you’re riding a horse, if you’re always comfortable, then you may not be doing it right. So, if you get comfortable, keep pushing yourself harder. Keep your head up and just do it. What’s the worst that can happen? You may be sitting at home with nothing else to do, so just try 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).
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