Samantha, 24, is from Lake City, Florida. Samantha graduated from the seven-month Electrical Applications program at Tulsa Welding School in Jacksonville in October 2021.
Thanks for your time, Samantha. What did you do before you came to TWS?
I was a stay-at-home mom for a few years; I have two kids, a five-year-old daughter, and a three-year-old son. Then I started working; I kept going back into retail, but it wasn’t my thing. I did some waitressing before and throughout my time at Tulsa Welding School.
So, what made you think about coming to a trade school?
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I love learning, so I was getting bored with the repetition with no advancement. At the restaurant I worked at, I would hang out with co-workers when it was quiet. We got to talking about everything. One day the conversation turned to welding because the cook said he had a welding machine at home. It sounded really interesting the way he explained it to me. He said he would invite me over to his house to try it out, but he had to check with his wife first! Well…she was not okay with that!
I was really excited to try welding, so I figured I’d find a way to do it. I looked up Tulsa Welding School and went down to take a tour. My mind was dead set on a welding program, but when I arrived, I saw they had an electrical program. That really sparked my interest! I thought, “That’s what I want to do!”
Did you know anything about electrical work?
No, not at all. But just understanding the process of how electronics work, the idea of wiring a house, that all seemed really interesting to me. What really caught my eye is there is a solar course within the program. That’s what I really wanted to shoot for – working with solar panels…which turned out to be super simple!
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Would you ever consider going back to school for welding – your original plan?
I’ve thought about it. I just got a really good job for an aviation company as an airframe service technician. If welding is something that would one day be beneficial to me here, to help me progress and get better pay, then I would for sure. It still sounds interesting to me.
What did you enjoy most about your time at Tulsa Welding School?
It was definitely learning the electrical schematics; figuring out how to read them, how to write them, then doing the hands-on work to put them on a board. That was my favorite thing to do. I was driving an hour a day to get to school, and I was excited to get there.
Schematics – okay. Do you have an analytical brain? Do you like puzzles?
Yes, I do. I love it. To me, the complicated they made it, the more fun it would be.
How did you find the program?
The first few months had a good flow to it – you do this, this, then this. It made sense, but then it got harder and more frustrating. It’s more like it is on the job I guess; you have to figure things out more.
Many welding students stay on to practice after class, did you do that in Electrical?
It was a morning program, and I had to be at work at 2pm, so no. But honestly, I never needed to because I always finished my projects – and everyone else in my class always finished. It’s pretty simple work once you’re handed everything. You work in big groups, so there’s always someone on hand who would know what to do or to help if the instructor was busy.
So, let’s go back to your job you mentioned. Who are you working for?
I work for HAECO as an Airframe Service Technician here in Lake City, Florida; we do aircraft maintenance, repair, and overhaul. I passed the site every day on my way to Tulsa Welding School. I often thought “I wonder if I’ll work there one day?”
Congratulations! When did you start?
I started just after New Year’s, even though I got the job two months ago, not long after finishing school. We have 10-12 weeks in a training class, and they wanted to wait to fill it with recruits.
Sounds like a great company. Are you using your electrical skills?
Yes, I will be once I get to the floor after training. They are very strict on lock out/tag out, to make sure everything is safe to work on the aircraft. I will also work with the aviation team to take down antennas and stuff for them.
I actually applied because I thought I was applying for an a/c technician job! I thought I’d be working on air conditioning systems on airplanes! They called and explained it was different; I’d be working with all kinds of technicians – mechanics, avionics, everything. Honestly, having Tulsa on my résumé was the only thing that got me considered for this position.
Are you happy with the money you’ve started on?
I’m at the bottom of the ladder, so I’m making $15 an hour right now, but within a year that will be $17/hr. When I get my certifications, it’s nothing but promotions after that. I did make between $18 and $30hr waitressing, but it fluctuated…and I didn’t want to deal with customer complaints anymore. There weren’t many, but when you get them, they ruin your day. But working for a big company I also get benefits; really good health benefits, paid time off, vacation time, you name it – it’s really good benefits.
What’s your regular schedule? Do you get overtime?
It’s 6.30am till 3pm; I like that schedule. It will work great with my kids’ school schedule. It’s a full 40 hours for the first 8-12 weeks while we’re training, and they are strict with that; they don’t want us clocking out even 10 minutes late. But when I get to the floor, there may be opportunities for overtime.
What’s your career plan from here?
I’m still mapping out my five-year plan; it could change or fluctuate when I get onto the floor and see what people really do down there. But I’m pretty dead-set on becoming an aviation technician, working on the electrical side of that. But I’ll know more when I get onto the floor, because I really don’t know anything about aircraft right now. It’s a whole new thing for me; I don’t even know all the parts for my car yet!
What do you enjoy most about your new trade?
Definitely telling my kids that I work on airplanes. It’s something they can proudly tell other people instead of, “My mom’s a waitress…” they can now tell people, “My mom works on airplanes!”
I also love learning and gaining knowledge. That’s just something you can’t get waitressing. That’s partially why I went to school. I was getting bored with the repetition with no gain. So, I made a change, went to school, and now I work in a field with almost endless knowledge to it. I really want to stick with it.
Did you make some connections at Tulsa? People you will stay in touch with.
I was just focused on learning, so I didn’t have time to make many friends. That’s not why I was there.
What advice would you give to students considering Tulsa Welding School?
Definitely take notes. Read carefully. And don’t’ get electrocuted! It almost happened to me, so be careful!
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).