Jose, 19, from Houston, Texas, graduated from the Welding Specialist program at Tulsa Welding School & Technology Center in Houston in February 2018. Jose came to TWSTC straight out of high school.
Thanks for sharing your story, Jose. Had you any welding experience before you came to Tulsa?
I did four years of welding in high school and worked part-time, in a welding shop as a welder’s helper.
Why did you decide you needed to go to welding school?
I thought being certified would be better than not being certified. It could lead to better paying jobs. I read about how experienced the instructors were at Tulsa and how much experience they have in the field. That, plus learning stuff from the books and the hands-on time in the shop, sounded good.
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Did you know that welding was the career you wanted in high school?
I really enjoyed welding in high school, but I actually did it as a hobby first and just went on from there. I participated in competitions where I won first place. I’ve welded grills and actually sold stuff. As I got older, there was no doubt that this was what I was going to do.
What did you enjoy most about Tulsa Welding School?
Honestly, what I enjoyed most was the hands-on deal. It was just one classroom day a week, and the rest was hands-on time with the instructors who were always available to answer my questions about welds, processes and whatever. That’s what I liked the most and made it worth it.
Other schools have more books than hands-on work, and that’s not how it’s supposed to be. You’re not going to weld with your head, you’re going to use your hands. So you need that physical training.
Do you think you made the most of your time at welding school?
I took advantage of the fact that I did the night classes at school (6.30pm to 11.30pm), so I would get out of work and go in to school early to get that extra practice. So instead of five hours a day, I was doing six or seven at the school.
You graduated six weeks ago…are you working?
Yeah, I got hired fulltime with NRG Pressure Pumping in Tomball, Texas. It’s just 15 minutes from my house, so I didn’t even have to move. I’m still living at home!
What kind of welding are you doing?
It’s stainless steel TIG welding. I basically weld flanges from 11 inches to 15 inches on fitted pipe. That’s the biggest size I’ve done so far, but they have way bigger ones, like 25-30 inches.
How did you get the job?
From a staffing agency, actually. I went up there, applied and put in my resume. They called me within a couple of weeks with an offer. I had to take a weld test that went through an x-ray and a pressure test. Everything came back good and I got the job on the spot. I’m one month in to three months’ probation, and then I’ll get hired on permanently. They started me at $27 an hour, and I’m doing 65 hours a week. Anything over 40 hours is overtime at time and a half. From what I’ve heard, it goes up to $35 an hour. It’s great, but you don’t know what day it is because you’re working so much! I’m working from 6am to 5.30pm, 7 days a week.
There aren’t many careers where you can make that kind of money after seven months of school, are there?
I have relatives who went to a four-year college and they’re up to their neck in debt to this day. I went to trade school and I’m making almost $11,000 a month*. With this job I’ll pay it off my loan in no time.
What was it like getting your first welding paycheck? Did you do anything fun with it?
I actually invested in some tools, like a new TIG torch and materials. I had to because the company doesn’t supply you. You’re basically your own worker, you know?
When you went to Tulsa, did you think you’d be making that kind of money 8 months later?
Honestly, early in the program with some of the welds and processes, I thought I’m not supposed to be a welder. Welding is not for everybody, you know. There are obstacles to overcome. I got to the point where high school made it look so easy! I had to overcome that obstacle to gain experience on that type of weld.
So I overcame it and moved up to the next step, overcame that and moved up. It was harder than I thought, but I gained all that knowledge and experience. When I got to the final phase, I knew that TIG was what I wanted to do. So I focused on that one specific process – TIG welding – and put my applications in for TIG jobs, and that’s the job I got.
What are your career plans from here? What is your ultimate career goal?
That’s a good question. I haven’t thought that far. I’ve got a real good job right now, and I’m going to be here for a while!
What do you enjoy most about being a welder?
Creating something. I look back and think, “Wow, I did that!” It’s not about the money. You’re a welder, so the money is there, but you have to enjoy what you do. That’s the point of working: to find something you’re passionate about.
Do you stay in touch with Career Services?
I do. Not so much lately, because their main goal is to help you find a job. Once they see you’re settled, they give you a loose rope and only check up on you here and there to see how you’re doing. Stay in touch because if the job doesn’t work out for whatever reason, they’re still going to help you. Even if you’ve been away from school for a year already, you can just go back and say, “I have a weld test coming up. Can I come in and practice?” They’ll let you come back at no cost.
What advice would you give to new students considering TWS?
I’d tell them not to slack around in class because everything they teach you there, you are going to do in the field. Everything they tell you is important. You’ve got to pay attention to the teachers and pay attention to the small details. Make your welds look professional. Make them look clean. Make the most of the opportunity. Take advantage of it. Tulsa is a great school to learn from, honestly.
*Average starting salary for Welding Specialist is $34,554 for TWSTC graduates employed during the 12 month period of 7/1/16-6/30/17.
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. Please include details such as your graduation date (month/year), program, and campus name (Tulsa/Jacksonville/Houston).