Faculty Appreciation Month – Richard Rice

TWS is a Great Training Option for Everyone

Learn more about how we can prepare you to advance your career.

Richard, 45, from Yulee, Florida, is a senior lead welding instructor at Tulsa Welding School, Jacksonville campus. Richard is the night class welding lead and has been an instructor at TWS since March 2021. 

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

I graduated from Tulsa Welding School here in Jacksonville in 2002 and I’ve been welding ever since.

Awesome. So, you went to welding school around age 23, what did you do before welding?

I kind of stumbled around here and there, got laid off here and there. I did a lot of jobs. I sold cars, I sold Kirby vacuum cleaners, I worked at AOL. I did a whole bunch of jobs. I already had two kids when I started welding school, so I needed a career.

Have You Considered a Career in the Skilled Trades?

Fill out the form to recieve a no obligation info packet.

You are giving your express written consent for Tulsa Welding School to contact you regarding our educational programs and services using email, telephone or text including our use of automated technology for calls or texts to any wireless number you provide. This consent is not required to purchase goods or services and you may always call us directly at (855) 237-7711.

+ Read More

No doubt. Take us through your welding career.

Right out of welding school, I went to work at a shipyard. I started off on fire watch, before I moved on to welding. Then I went to work at a couple of little shops. I also did a few shutdowns up north; I did two or three of those. But most of my experience was at a fab shop in Yulee, north of Jacksonville, called Florida Machine Works; I was there for 13 years. I did everything from building crane cabs to projects for NASA; we rebuilt the inner structure and exhaust systems for the platforms at Kennedy Space Center.

That sounds cool. As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up? 

I was going to join the military, but then I had a kid at 19 and that changed that. My father was in the fire department and the military, so I started doing volunteer firefighting. I thought I might go down that path, but mentally I wasn’t really prepared to be a firefighter, so I went to welding. I guess I’m still dealing with fire, just in a more controlled way!

What made you decide to go into teaching a few years ago? 

My shop closed during the pandemic in 2020. My wife and I needed health insurance, so I was scrambling and the first place I found work was Amazon. I was there for five months before I came here in March of 2021. At that point, after welding for almost 20 years, I just wanted to slow down physically. I started life earlier with kids. I’ve been a dad my whole adult life, so I’m now a grandpa at an earlier age. I’ve always been kind of a teacher in my other jobs, so it just fits well for me. It’s a little bit more work mentally than what I’m used to, but physically it’s a lot less. That’s why I enjoy it; I can use my brain all day, but using my body kind of gets harder and harder every day.

You’ve been here for over three years now. What do you enjoy most about teaching?

I’ve always been a people person; I like to help people. I like to genuinely help somebody in their life. We always forget where we came from, when somebody gave us an opportunity a long time ago. One little thing you do might mean nothing to you, but it could mean the entire world to somebody else. 

Tell us something most people don’t know about you?

One of the surprising things about me is I used to skateboard a lot as a teenager. I opened Kona, I saw a lot of cool people, like Tony Hawk when he started. You really can’t tell now with my stature, but I do have 13 broken bones to prove it. My mom and I were on a first name basis with the cast people! That’s the beauty of being young. If I touched a skateboard now, I’d probably be in traction!

If you could have dinner with anyone, alive or dead, who would that be and why?

Maybe an ancient philosopher, just to see how different we really were back then compared to today. 

You mentioned your family a couple of times, Richard. Tell us a little more about them.

I married my first wife as a teenager, and we had two kids. We were married until I was 30. I’m now married to Tena, and she has two kids. We’ve been together for 12 years. So, I have four kids: a boy and a girl biologically, and two stepdaughters. It’s a mixed family, but I call them all my kids. I also have a 6-year-old granddaughter and a 4-year-old grandson. 

What’s the biggest piece of advice you’d give to new students?

Be kind, be humble, and pay attention to everything. Ask a lot of questions, and then put your new knowledge to work as best as you know how. Take a little bit of something from everybody.

What did you enjoy most about your career as a welder?

The fab shop side of the industry is really where I found my home because you take raw material, just pieces and parts of things, and put it all together to make something that’ll last hundreds of years. You see it come together. Most people just see it finished out in the world, like already put together or installed. But when you’re building it, you get to actually see every piece that went into it, every joint. You can just see the creation come together. It gave me a sense of pride and accomplishment. 

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

I’d spend it with my family, my grandkids. I’d probably take my grandkids to the zoo.

If you were to tell someone “Thank You” for making you the man you are today, who would it be? 

That’s hard. I lost my dad when I was young, so I would say my old boss, Joe Oller, at Florida Machine Works. He gave me the chance to thrive and the space to grow.

Thank you, Richard for your contributions to TWS!