Jose Dominguez, age 19, is from Moultrie, GA. Just a few weeks after graduating high school, he moved down to Florida to attend Tulsa Welding School – Jacksonville campus. He’s a brand new graduate!
Thanks for your time, Jose. You took the seven month Professional Welder program didn’t you?
Yes that’s true, but I only had to do five months because I articulated.
Articulated? Tell us what that means.
To qualify for the articulation program, you need to have taken welding in high school and maintained a ‘B’ average or above. As I was able to maintain my grade and learn the basics of welding, I didn’t have to take the introductory phases at TWS. It’s like transferring credits basically; it’s a great benefit as I was able to skip the first two phases and enter the third phase of the program.
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What made you choose welding as a career?
I first got into welding as my Career Pathway in high school. I really didn’t know anything about welding, but it looked bright and shiny, so I wanted to try it. I didn’t like it that first year, but I had to stick with it for three years or I wouldn’t graduate. But the more welding I did over the next two years, the more I liked it. Eventually, I started to really enjoy it and once I learned the economic benefits of welding, it made it that much more attractive to me! I saw welding as a way to help my family. It was a way out.
After three years welding in high school, what made you continue your welding education?
We had a guy come talk to us about Tulsa Welding School. It was clear that my school didn’t cover hardly any of the stuff they do at TWS. We didn’t do TIG welding, any stainless steel, any aluminum, any carbon steel. We didn’t learn how to weld on a pipe, how to do bevels…I realized how much I didn’t know.
When I saw how much I could expand my knowledge by attending Tulsa, it really got my attention. I could learn all the welding processes I always wanted to but never could. And I heard that these processes could lead to better paid jobs too. It sounded like a great opportunity, and as the school didn’t charge out of state tuition, that made it that much better for me.
What was your favorite part about the welding program and why?
It was a combination of the instructors and hands-on practice. The instructors were definitely the best part of it. They can be your friends at times, and like your dad at other times. Their words and wisdom help you. They push you to do more and to keep on getting better. They helped me graduate!
The amount of time you get under the hood at TWS is unbelievable! I checked out another school that does welding and their students only got an hour a day, three or four days a week, over a period of two years. At Tulsa you work five hours a day and then you can do as many more hours practice as you want.
How was the transition straight from high school to a college type environment?
The biggest thing is you’re on your own. You’re paying for it, so it’s up to you. If you’re really serious about it, then you’ll get it done. If you’re not, you can tell right away. My parents really drove me forward. We paid for school in cash, so I could feel a real need to understand what I had to learn and move forward. When you buy something expensive, you feel it, but it’s worth it!
So it’s Tuesday today, and you graduated three days ago. Have you got a job yet?
Yes, I start with UTLX, the Union Tank Car Company, in Valdosta, GA, on Tuesday. Sherry, at the TWS campus, helped me. She’s really good with resumes, finding worksites…anything! She printed a list of jobs in the area I was looking at; one of them was this one. My friend Kenny [from TWS] also told me he’s working there, and that they’re looking for people. So, yesterday I called and they approved my application today. It’s all happening in a hurry! I was at my high school practicing for the weld test earlier.
Are you excited about this job, or is it just something to get you started?
This job is everything I’m looking for really. It’s from 6:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., that leaves me the rest of the afternoon to get around and do other things. The pay is really good. I’m starting at $18.50 an hour and after 90 days, I’ll qualify for overtime.
What are your plans for your first paycheck?
My cousin, Luis Vargas, has been like a brother to me my whole life. There were times when my parents and I didn’t have what we needed to pay for school, and Luis helped us out with a lot of money. That was money he’d set aside to pay for his college or to buy a house, so it was so cool that he’d do such a thing for me. I’m going to start paying him back with that first paycheck.
What would you like to be doing in three years?
I really, really like teaching, so I’d like to become a high school welding instructor. I’ve been told that you need at least two years’ experience before you can teach in Georgia, so in three years I hope to be teaching kids how to weld. That’s my dream job.
Do you feel that TWS helped you on your way to becoming a specialist?
The skills they taught me, everything that I learned, all that has put me on the path to becoming a specialist. But with everything you need experience before you can call yourself a specialist.
What’s your favorite aspect of your new trade?
There are two things. First there are something like 7.5 billion people in the world, and not even 1% of those people have a background in welding. So I can call myself part of that 1%. That’s an exclusive group of smart people! And secondly, I like to know that I’m helping people. The theme to my life is helping others. That’s why I want to be a teacher…to help others. I want to use my first paycheck to help my cousin. I want to do this career knowing I’m helping people.
Did you make some lasting connections at the school?
I did make a lot of friends and not only at school. TWS brought me to Jacksonville, and I had to find a job. I was a grill guy at a Mexican restaurant, and I made plenty of friends there too. I also know that the Tulsa instructors will have my back if I ever need them to, like with help finding a job or something.
What do you do for fun?
I like to play music. I play for my church. I play guitar, the drums, and bass. We have our own band and we’ll keep on proceeding with that. I also enjoy family time. My parents Jose and Sonia, my cousin Luis, and my little sister and brother have given me so much support. I want them to know how grateful I am. My mom cried at graduation; I think my dad did too, but he won’t admit it. I still live with my parents, but hopefully in six months I will have my own place.
If you were a millionaire for a day, what would you do?
I’d buy a house, and buy a bigger house for my parents. The rest -I’d save half of it, and the other half I’d put into scholarships for welding programs.
What advice would you give to new students considering attending TWS?
It’s a great opportunity. A lot of people think welding school is for people who aren’t ‘school smart’, but it takes an intelligent, calm, and precise person who’s good with their hands to become a good welder. If it was easy, there wouldn’t be school for it. If it was easy, everyone would do it. It’s not easy; it’s hard. But if you have the desire to see it through, it will bring great benefits to you and everyone around you.
If you’re a TWS graduate and would like to share your success and be an inspiration to others, please email Social@StrataTech.com to be considered for a Graduate Connection interview.