Faculty Appreciation Month – Meet Aaron Andrews

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Aaron, 33, from Killeen, TX, is an electrical instructor at Tulsa Welding School, Dallas Metro campus. Aaron joined the school in December 2023 and is currently instructing the Fundamentals of Solar phase.

Thanks for your time, Aaron; so, how did you get started in the electrical field?

Honestly, after high school I was just working jobs, trying to figure out what I wanted in life. About 13 years ago I met a friend who was an electrician. We were hanging out and he asked if I’d ever given any thought to becoming an electrician? I’ve always been in blue collar work, whether it was concrete or framing houses, so we talked about it some more. I decided to apply for an electrical apprentice position, and they offered me $2/hour more than what I was making. And this was as an apprentice in a career I knew nothing about really. So, I took the job and before I knew it, I fell in love with it. We were just in and out of different jobs every day. I did commercial work, residential work, service work, new construction, remodeling, you name it, we did it. I was an apprentice for two years before I got my wireman’s license which allowed me to do residential work.

What’s the advantage of going to an electrician school, like the program Tulsa Welding School offers?

The difference is when you go to school, you don’t just learn the hands-on part, you also learn the code, the book, the intellectual part. You get both sides of it. When I was in the field, all I got was hands-on, so it took me a little longer to grasp what I needed to learn because I didn’t go to school. I definitely recommend going to school because it 100% gives you a head start when you first get out there in the field.

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Does going to school also shorten the apprenticeship period?

Yes, it does shorten it because you get your licensing based off of hours; when you graduate from TWS, you already start out with a certain amount of hours under your belt as you go into the field.

What did your career look like once you got your license?

I spent the majority of my career doing residential service, that’s where my expertise is. I dealt a lot with customers one-on-one; going to peoples’ houses on a daily basis, fixing stuff, doing installs, troubleshooting, anything that was needed. For that work, you have to be a people person. You can’t be the world’s best electrician but be scared of people. I tell my students that all the time: the kind of work you end up doing in the HVAC/electrical field really just depends on your personality. Students who don’t mind talking will probably be okay working with customers, whereas students who aren’t talkative, who keep themselves to themselves, will be better in new construction or commercial work.

As a boy, what did you want to be when you grew up? 

I wanted to be a zoologist. I’ve always loved animals. I still do. But as I got older, I realized there are a lot more people who want that job than the number of zoologist jobs available. Plus, a zoologist means a lot of school and debt! I wanted a career where jobs were more attainable, where I would always find work. 

Why did you decide to go into teaching last year?

I started training people after I’d been in the field for about eight years. I trained a lot of apprentices and made them technicians. They’d ride with me, learn from me, and eventually they’d get their own license and go out on their own. But it was maybe two, three, four guys at a time; it was never like a full classroom. 

But I always enjoyed it, because as I was teaching them, I could see the results. I could see them learning and growing. I could see the results of my training, and it always made me feel really good that I was helping people go forward in their career path. So eventually I came across a job opening with Tulsa Welding School, and I jumped on it because I felt like that this was where I needed to be.

Six months in, what do you like best about it?

Dealing one-on-one with students. I’m happy to see them every day, I enjoy it. Most of them have little to no experience, so everything is new for them. I can see their excitement, that they really want to do this. You don’t pay good money to learn something that you’re not interested in, at least you shouldn’t!

Knowing that they’re interested just makes me excited to teach them. The next week I can see they’ve retained knowledge, and I can see growth. I can see their success; I can see their grades and that they’re passing. Seeing all that just pushes me harder to keep doing this because everyone that I come across is going to be out in the field eventually. I want to make sure that I have the best impact on them possible, so they continue to move forward with this pursuit of a trade.

I give them my full undivided attention. I make sure they know that I’m there for them and that I want to see them to be successful. I invest myself fully into my students because I want them to invest fully into their careers. By me doing that, hopefully it rubs off on them and they want to be successful, and maybe in the future, they can help other people be successful.

Tell me something that most people don’t know about you?

I used to bowl professionally. I was in the PBA for two years when I was younger…before responsibilities, career choices, and adulting came along. I’ve played sports my whole life. I like to go hiking, fishing, and hunting. I’m an outdoor person, I like to do anything outdoors, that’s my thing.

If you could choose to have dinner with anyone, alive or dead, who would it be?

Honestly, it’s someone that I’ve met a few times. I know they’re extremely smart and they’ve had a lot of life experiences. Just from the short time I’ve got to know them, everything they say is really interesting. I like to be around people with different mindsets, but who are like-minded. I’m talking about Mary Kelly, the President and CEO of StrataTech [the parent company of Tulsa Welding School]. I’ve met Mary three or four times, and every time it’s been a great conversation. I can tell that she knows a lot. If I could have dinner and pick somebody’s brain for a couple of hours, it would be Mary. She’s made a big impact on me.

That’s cool. Maybe it’ll happen! Tell us about your family, Aaron. Married? Kids?

I do have a kid, but I am single. My son Hayden is six years old. I share custody 50:50 with his mom. I got him into sports. He plays football every Friday, and then we practice on weekends. I do have my own family here – my parents and siblings. We all live in the same area, so we are very close. I’m very family oriented. When I’m not working at the weekends, you’ll find me with my family.

What’s the biggest piece of advice you’d give to new students who are just starting out?

Just relax and don’t be afraid. Learning anything new can be scary at first, and it can be overwhelming, but that should make it even more exciting. Because when you come here, you’re not learning a job, you’re learning a career. There’s a big difference between a job and a career. The biggest difference is a job is something you do until you find something else. A career is a life choice, it’s forever. Once you invest in a career or a trade, that’s what you do, that’s who you are. I am an electrician. I’m always going to be an electrician. Nobody can take that away from me.

You get an unexpected afternoon off to yourself, what would you do with that time?

I’d probably go pick up my kid early from school and take him to the park or something.

What did you enjoy most about your time in the field? 

My favorite thing in the field, the reason I did it so long, is fixing something. When you get called to fix something, that’s where the true electrician comes out. Everyone always has anxiety when they’ve got to call a service tech to their house because they have no idea what it’s going to cost, because they don’t know what’s wrong. They’re freaking out. My favorite thing to do is first, relieve their stress by letting them know I’m the one who can fix it, they don’t need to worry. And then second, when I actually do fix it, I can see the happiness in their face. I’ve often gone out to calls where they’ve already had electricians out who couldn’t fix the problem. Those were my favorite calls. I’m very confident in my skills, I have a lot of training and experience. I’ve trained with some of the best people there are. I’m confident that I can fix anything, I don’t put limitations on myself. So, yeah, I really got enjoyment out of fixing people’s problems. 

If you were to tell one person “Thank You” for helping me become the person I am today, who would it be and what did they do? 

I would say my grandfather, Arvil. He’s no longer with us, but growing up, all I ever saw my grandfather do was work hard and provide for his family. He made sure his family had everything that they needed. That’s what he did, day in and day out, and he didn’t mind doing it. I knew that’s what I wanted to do; I wanted to make sure that my loved ones were taken care of, and I knew the only way to do that is to work hard.

Thank you, Aaron for your contributions to TWS!