Graduate Connections – Meet Shawn Whitman

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Shawn, 30, from Window Rock, Arizona, graduated from the Professional Welder program at Tulsa Welding School in July 2019.

Thanks for your time, Shawn. Tell us what you did before welding school.

I wasn’t doing that much of anything, really. I wasn’t working at the time, to be honest, just lounging around at home.

What made you choose welding?

I really didn’t think of welding at all until a buddy, who was in the military and had his GI Bill, came back from a welding school he went to in Phoenix. He told me that Tulsa has a welding school, and I should go. So I just jumped in and headed out to Oklahoma.

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Did you do any research about a welding career?

No, not really. I just jumped in and did it.

Did you do any welding in high school?

I did a week’s worth in high school, but I moved to a different program, so I didn’t really have a chance to get into it. I basically knew one end of a stick from the other, and not to touch the hot end!

What did you enjoy most about Tulsa Welding School?

I really got into it. I did well with everything welding and got good scores. The instructors helped out a lot. If you needed help or asked a question, they would show you what you needed to do, or what needed to be done. Then you go do it until you get it right. I loved the amount of hands-on, too, to be able to see what you’re doing and work with your hands for five hours a day. You can get a real hang of it from a good day’s work. It was really good.

Were you surprised by the amount of hands-on?

I knew it was hands-on. A representative came out here to a local job fair in Window Rock and talked about it. He said it was a real hands-on program, plus the website gives really good detail on it, too. You’re there in the lab four days a week, five hours a day.

You graduated just a couple of months ago. Where are you working?

I now live in Tucson, AZ. I did find a job here after graduation, but they recently let me go. I was there for about three weeks; I guess I was kind of slow. My first real experience in a shop and they wanted me to weld fast. I know how to weld. I just don’t know how to weld fast yet. They weren’t willing to give me the time to get faster.

You’re working with the TWS Career Services team?

I’ve been trying on my own but haven’t had any success, so I just reached out to the school to see if they can get me any leads.

Are you prepared to travel or move, or are you looking for something local?

I want to stay local. My fiancé is here in Tucson, and we’d like to stay here.

Compared to Oklahoma, or Texas. I guess there aren’t too many opportunities in Tucson, AZ.

No, not really. I would move to Phoenix. There are more jobs up there, but my fiancée wouldn’t! She doesn’t like the traffic!

What kind of welding work would you like?

I am hoping to get stick welding, but lately I’ve not found anything, so I may have to look for flux core.

What would be your dream welding job?

Probably a stick structural job, building things like bridges or buildings. Stick has always been my favorite welding process—the control of it, and how it looks. Once I got the hang of it, it was fun, and it’s the process I was best at.

What do you enjoy most about welding?

I like building stuff, and the creativity of it.

Do you go into your own world when you drop the hood?

Yeah, I kind of zone out. You forget about everything else and focus on what you’re doing, to stay on track. It keeps your mind busy, you know.

You enjoyed TWS, but employment isn’t working out right now. Are you going to stick with welding?

Yeah, I still want to to pursue it, but at the moment I just need to find a job.

What advice would you give to people about to start at Tulsa Welding School?

Ask questions of the instructors. Don’t be frightened. The class I was in wasn’t shy about asking questions. Just practice, practice, practice. That’s all there really is to 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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