Veronica Hibbert is the regional director of career services at Tulsa Welding School. Veronica has worked in Career Services in the post-secondary education industry for 14 years.
How long have you been with the school, Veronica?
I started March 01 2017. I just had my one-year anniversary! I love working with the team and the students because it’s just so rewarding. I get to interact with students on a daily basis and see them grow. To see the students’ successes and the rewards for their hard work and commitment is just truly amazing.
What’s your main responsibility?
I am accountable for the career services departments at all StrataTech Education Group campuses, which includes the three Tulsa Welding School campuses (Tulsa, Jacksonville and Houston) and RSI—The Refrigeration School—in Phoenix, Arizona.
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How did you get started in Career Services?
I started out working directly with students as an advisor more than 14 years ago. I try to still work with students closely today because that’s my passion and my personality. I consider myself a caregiver. I enjoy helping people and watching them grow! It’s amazing to see them accomplish something. That’s what captured my attention when I first started, and it’s how I still feel. For those students who truly want it, I go above and beyond, and that’s how I drive my team. I try to lead by example.
So where are you based?
In Tulsa. I started as the director of career services for this campus before I got the regional position in October last year. Since then, most of my time has been spent traveling between the four campuses.
Your passion is helping students, but as department head, how much face time do you get with them?
Not as much as I’d like. I have an open door policy, and we’re in an open area where students have easy access. For example, whenever admission representatives are giving a tour to prospective students, no matter what, even if I’m on the phone, I try to get up and shake hands. As far as helping them with placement, we have a team of advisors in each campus that does that detail work.
How many career services advisors do you have in your team?
I currently have three in Tulsa, four in Jacksonville, four in Houston and three at RSI in Phoenix. Jacksonville and Houston will each add a fifth career services advisor soon.
How do you help create job opportunities?
A lot of my time is spent connecting with employers and creating partnerships for each campus. It’s really business development for the students, making sure that we have a steady stream of companies visiting the campus looking for successful graduates. At the Tulsa campus, for example, we have four or five companies nationwide that regularly come to the campus to recruit students. So my time in the classroom or in the shop is spent making sure they are aware of the opportunities that are coming, that they sign up for weld tests and that they practice. I also work with instructors to make sure that the students are ready for the upcoming weld tests.
Is it a successful process?
We have quite good success. For example, we had Ingalls Shipbuilding here just a couple of weeks ago. They tested 13 people, and nine of those passed the test and were offered letters on the spot. Yesterday we had Sabre Industries here from Iowa. They traveled in to test our students and make offers to them. So those are just a couple of examples of what we do to create opportunities.
What are some typical questions that students ask of you and your team?
“Why do I have to do a résumé?”
“Should I apply for jobs that say they require experience or entry level only?”
“How do I get work on the pipeline?”
“What if I have a criminal background?”
“Can I come back to practice welding after graduation?”
“What questions am I likely to be asked in an interview?”
Does a welder have to interview well?
The weld test, a skills test, is really the key in most instances. Most employers are interested in skills.
So how important are a résumé and interview skills to a welder?
Even though they need to pass a weld test, employers still like to see a résumé because it shows an overall picture of the individual. Are they a job hopper? Can I rely on this person? Am I going to invest in them and then they’ll leave? Even though the hiring process isn’t 100% based on their résumé or interview like an office job, they always request a copy to see the overall character of the person.
What advice do you have for students who may be considering attending TWS?
The great asset we have is that we care about our students! For instance, the Tulsa location has 26 instructors with over 375 years of welding experience. So who better to learn a specialty skill trade from than people who have the job experience to help you become a world-class welder? Don’t just take my word for it. Visit us for a tour to see first-hand why we’ve been graduating welders since 1949.
What’s your favorite student story from your time at the Tulsa campus?
A student who lost both of his parents in a car accident when he was 14 years old. He came to Tulsa Welding School right after high school. He had numerous car problems and ran out of money several times. But he never gave up. He showed up to school with a big smile. He stayed committed.
After graduation he didn’t like his first job and went home. But he kept in contact with Career Services, and we scheduled an interview for him at Newport News, VA. He was hired. He’s happy and doing well, making really good money. I’m so proud of him. He checks in with the Career Services team and his admission representative Margo all the time about his progress.
It is not an easy journey; life happens to all of us in one way or another. He’s a great example of why you should not give up and why you should stay focused and committed to your educational journey. This will allow you to reap success at the end.
What can students do to help you help them?
Pick up the phone when we call! Most of the time, we have job leads and interviews that need to be filled immediately! They miss out on great opportunities because they don’t pick up! Stay committed and keep in touch with us. If you change your number, let us know. Text, email or call! We take pride in reaching out to graduates who are not working at least once a week. Help us to help you!