Faculty Appreciation Month – Meet Josh Berry

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Josh, 37, from Rathdrum, Idaho, is a welding and pipefitting instructor at Tulsa Welding School & Technology Center in Houston. He has been an instructor with us for just over a year. 

Thanks for your time, Josh; how long have you been welding?

About 19 years. I welded in high school, but I really started in 2005 at North Idaho College. I did a welding technology program right out of high school. I’ve gone full circle from welding school to welding school!

Tell us briefly about your welding career.

I’ve only had a few different jobs. I was lucky enough to get into a good fabrication shop in Coeur D’Alene. I worked there for about 12 years. I was building combustors, boilers, and gas fires. I was doing a lot of high-pressure pipe welding and some structural welding at the same shop. I become the fabrication foreman there, so I ran the shop for about seven years. Then I worked at a custom fab shop on the Oregon coast in Newport, Oregon. I was over there for a couple of years working on welding fishing boats mainly, other than little jobs that come through from city contracts or a grandma wanting her chair welded up.  

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After that I went to a company called Wagstaff in Spokane, Washington. We built uranium processing facilities. I worked there for about four years, welding nuclear piping. While I was there, they noticed my knack for quality and my attention to detail. So, they actually asked if I wanted to become a CWI [Certified Welding Inspector]. They paid for my seminar and for me to get my license. 

So, you’re a CWI?

Yes, I’m a Certified Welding Inspector. I’ve had that for four years now. I worked for them as a level two NDT tech in the nuclear division for a year. So, I’ve got a year of nuclear inspection under my belt.

How did you get to Tulsa Welding School in Houston?

The wife and I just wanted a change. We just wanted to learn a new culture and so we moved down from Spokane, Washington to Houston, Texas. We had some friends that moved down here, so we just moved down here blind. We sold the house and came down. I went to Airgas and asked where I should work as a CWI. They asked if I had heard of Tulsa Welding School? So, I looked into it and here I am.

Going from nuclear welding and being a CWI to teaching is a big change financially.

Yeah, but we sold our place up north. We were able to buy a place down here pretty easily with the real estate cost difference. That meant I didn’t have to make as much money, and I could have a less stressful job. As you can imagine working in the nuclear industry, there are a lot of agencies and people looking  over your shoulder as you’re dotting your i’s and crossing your T’s. Yeah, the money was great, but the stress was so high. This teaching job is a lot less stress. My wife’s enjoying me being less stressed too; she says I’m a little nicer when I come home now!

Did you ever see yourself as a teacher?

No, I didn’t. It just kind of come out the blue and I’m enjoying it.

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

My uncle was a contractor, so I was framing houses with him in the summer as a kid. I was too young to work, but I was doing it anyway! I really didn’t have any huge dreams or aspirations other than I wanted to become an underwater welder for a while. 

Did you pursue the underwater welding idea?

Yes. Some guys out of Puget Sound in Seattle came over to Spokane, Washington, and held a seminar; just like Tulsa Welding School does with high schools. So, I went to the seminar and looked into it; I was good with the finances and everything, but I’ve got asthma. When I did the physical, I physically wasn’t able to do underwater welding even though I’d been a recreational diver, certified through PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors), since I was a kid. It’s just when you get that deep, you’re doing saturation diving and that’s when having asthma is an issue.

What do you like best about teaching?

I’m enjoying showing students the ways of the trade and then seeing them progress through it. It’s pretty cool. I’ve been enjoying seeing it click for them. When they struggle and struggle, but then they finally have that ‘aha’ moment and it clicks for them, that’s pretty awesome. It puts a smile on my face. Once they finally understand what they’re doing, and then they go out, get a job, and then come back to say, “Thank you for all your help, all your patience.” I really enjoy that, and I get that quite a lot.

Tell me something most people don’t know about you.

A lot of people don’t know about my diving, but they also won’t know that I did downhill skiing. I raced for NASTAR in my teens. I never had to buy skis or any supplies because racing for them paid for all that. 

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

The first person I think of is my grandfather on my dad’s side – Joseph – because he passed away when I was pretty young. I didn’t get to know him much when I was a kid, so it’d be cool to sit down and chat with him more about his life.

Tell us about your family, Josh.

My wife Beth and I have been married twelve years; we have three kids, aged six, ten and thirteen. Beth has been a stay-at-home mom since we’ve had kids. Fortunately, my welding career meant we’ve been able to do that and still be financially successful. I now get more time with them too, which is so nice.

You get an unexpected day off, what would you do?

I’d go fishing down in the Gulf. I’ve really been enjoying saltwater fishing since I’ve been down here.

Do you have a boat?

No, not yet. One day I will. I do what they call wade fishing. You walk out about 600 yards because the water doesn’t get deep very fast, so you can walk out there aways and you catch all kinds of things. I mainly go out there for some flounder or trout, but I’ve caught sharks, stingrays, I’ve caught all kinds of stuff. You never know what you’re going to hook out there. A coworker at school, another instructor Brad, told me about it. Oh man, at one point last year we were going every week!

What was your favorite part of the industry when you worked in the field?

I really enjoyed the custom fabrication. Somebody comes in with an idea and you have to design it, build it, and make it work. I enjoyed that. We worked on a lot of those fishing boats down there and they’d come in and say, “Hey, I have a flying bridge on my boat, but I want it to be a top house. That way when the weather gets bad, I can still be up there and fish.” So, we’d have to build an entire top house on a boat to give them enclosed quarters. It’s just different things like that that you have to come up with doing custom fabrication! Now that I say that it reminds me that I’ve got a small LLC of my own. I’ve got my own custom fab shop at home in the garage. I don’t really advertise a lot. It’s just if people know me and they want some work done, they know I do good work.

What advice do you have for new students just starting out at TWS? 

I would say don’t stress out and don’t give up. Everybody seems to be a little stressed out and scared at first. It is hard, but don’t give up because you can do it. 

If you could tell anyone “Thank you” for helping you become who you are today, who would that be?

I would have to say my old high school shop teacher, Corey Petit, because he’s the one that told me I had a knack for welding, and I should get into it. I was welding in high school, and he told me to sign up for the welding school program because I was really good, too good to leave it. He still teaches welding at my high school and so I’d go and do some welding demos for him here and there when I still lived up there.

Thank you, Josh for your contributions to TWS!