Tauriq, 32, from Warrenton, North Carolina, is a Combo Specialty Welder who now lives in Jacksonville, FL, with his wife and kids. Tauriq graduated from the Professional Welder program at the Tulsa Welding School, Jacksonville campus, in May 2014. Welding helped Tauriq turn his life around.
Thanks for your time, Tauriq. Tell us what you did before welding.
My story is a little different. I had kind of a bumpy road and made some bad choices when I was younger; my mom was an avid drug user, and my dad was never present in my life, so I kind I indulged in activities that were a little different. I never had a job before welding, but I needed money.
So what changed to put you on a different path?
The life I had, the things I did. The money came fast, but it went even faster. I’m a person of reason and understanding. The risk/reward when I was younger didn’t seem real to me, but as I got older, I realized what I was doing. A lot of family members who taught me that side of life had gone to prison; I saw a pattern that I didn’t want to repeat. I came close—close enough that I experienced a little bit of it, and I had time to sit and think. I used that time wisely. I always want to prosper and grow. I wanted to make a lot of money, but I wanted to do it in a legal way. That’s what steered me toward welding.
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Where did your interest in welding in come from?
A few years after high school, l I knew I could go to community college and get a Pell Grant. Everybody did it because they wanted the money. I chose a welding program because that program came with the biggest grant. But welding at a community college is a lot of bookwork, so I never got to do any welding. Once I got the grant money, I just dropped out. But when I had my time to sit and think, I did a lot of research on what could make me a lot of money legally. I also had a cousin who went to Tulsa Welding School, so that’s why I chose welding.
What did you enjoy most about Tulsa Welding School?
The instructors. The guys there are really there to help you. We’re all adults, so they don’t try to babysit you. A community college welding program is two years or more, but the Professional Welder program at Tulsa is a fast-paced, seven-month program. So when you go to a school like Tulsa, you have to really want it. I discovered the more energy I gave, the more energy they gave me. The harder I worked, the harder they pushed me. In the beginning I didn’t understand that. I thought they were just being hard on me, but they saw that I was good. I came to realize that’s why they didn’t cut me any slack.
What was it like getting your first legal paycheck?
It kind of startled me, to be honest. I’d never received a paycheck before, so I went to the HR office and told them I felt they’d paid me too much money! They checked my hours and it was right; I just couldn’t believe it! It sparked a fire under me that no one can ever put out.
What kind of welding do you do now?
I’m a combo specialty welder. After six or seven months in the industry, I learned that there was more to welding than the basic carbon and stainless. I saw jobs that were paying $40/$50 an hour, and I wanted those jobs. But when I looked at the weld tests, they involved a lot of exotic metals.
So that’s when I decided to learn how to weld those metals. I’d do my homework and take a chance on the weld tests. More often than not, when I took a chance, I won. Now I can weld 10 or 15 different alloys, and that’s why possess skills that are few and far between.
I’ve worked in New York, Alabama, Florida, South Dakota, Louisiana, Nebraska, Nevada—I’ve been all over the country. A lot of times I’m working in power plants, chemical plants—places like that doing shutdowns and turnarounds. I’ve never had a permanent job. I travel from job to job. I’ve been on emergency jobs that took two weeks, and I’ve just started a job that could be 10 to 18 months.
What are your career plans from here?
I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing, but my next move is to start my own recruiting service. I’ve been talking to a few people about it. Even now, when they have good graduates from Tulsa, they call me asking if I can help these kids get a job. I can, of course. I’ve done so much quality work myself, that if I’m on a job or if I recommend somebody to a job, they’ll bring them in.
I place people all the time, but there are a lot of recruiting services making money. I make good money, but this would bring me residual income.
What do you enjoy most about welding?
I like that, with every weld, I help keep this country going. I take pride in what I do and I make a difference. Anybody can stack shelves, but there are very few people in the world who can do what I do.
What advice would you give to new students considering TWS?
I would ask, “How passionate are you?” If you’re not serious about this, don’t waste your time or money. You have to know that just graduating from Tulsa Welding School guarantees you nothing; you have to put the work in, and you have to have it inside you to get the rewards.
I was in school at least 15 hours a day—morning, afternoon and night—for at least five months because I was there for one thing and one thing only: to learn how to weld. I couldn’t let the outside stuff trap me, the partying and stuff like that.
I graduated with a 4.0 GPA. I had a 102% attendance and won the attendance award. I graduated as Top Welder and broke the record for bending coupons. In Phase 10, you have to bend all your coupons to graduate school. I did it all in one day. It usually takes people a week. I think the fastest it was ever done was three days. So I always strive to be the best.
So it’s all about focus and desire. That clearly paid off for you.
As I got older, I learned that time is valuable. It’s something you can never get back. You can always get money, but time is irreplaceable. I wanted to make sure I made the most of my time there. The first two months, I worked at the school, but I wanted more time, so I quit my job. I sold my car so I had money to live. For my first job, I had to catch a bus from Jacksonville to Alabama. But it’s paid off. I was making $3,500 a week in my first job. I haven’t made under $100,000 a year since I left Tulsa.
I live in Jacksonville now, and I go back to the school all the time. I speak to the students and let them know about real life. I show them $4,100-a-week pay stubs from 2015, but I also tell them that just graduating from Tulsa gets you nothing. You have to do the work and have the passion inside you.
Last time I was at the school, there was a kid in Phase 8 who thought he was good, and he said “I know you, you’re Black Jesus!” That is no lie! That’s what he said. He’d seen my picture on the wall. It really touched me because what I did there and the statement I made at Tulsa carries on. He thought he was good, and so he asked me to weld with him. So I did, to teach him a lesson. When we were done, he was more humble. He said, “Man, I’ve got a lot of work to do.” I said that’s good, because that’s the attitude you need. Even if you think you’re ready, you’re nowhere near ready.
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).