By Diana Hammond & Jul DeGeus
In honor of April being National Welding Month, we sat down with AIM Atlanta welding instructors, Shane Graham, David Coetzee, Carlos Murphy and Roger Anderson, to get their feedback on what sets the welding field apart from other trades:
What led you to want to study and work in the welding field?
Shane: Form the first arc I ever stuck when I was kid on the farm, I guess you could say I fell in love with welding. It got in my blood. There’s nothing compared to the instant gratification of lifting your hood to see that perfect bead you’ve been working on all day, all week or even years. To know you’re one of the few that can call yourself a welder is a great felling and it comes with a certain amount of respect.
David: My father told me when I was very young that if I developed skills with my hands, then I would never go hungry. This led me to pursue fabrication and machining skills. I also enjoyed be
ing able to create things and having the abilities to take most projects from start to finish.
Carlos: I liked that I could start my own business and that the money was good for an advanced welder.
Roger: I was inspired by multiple family and friends who worked in the steel manufacturing industry.
What’s the most fascinating thing about welding to you?
Shane: I weld because I love testing myself and pushing my skills every day. There are so many metals to weld: Titanium, nickel, hastelloy, cobalt, carbon, aluminum, stainless, etc. Nothing beats being able to start with plate steel or tubing, and by the time you’re done, you’ve made something like a boiler or a crane or a backhoe. The options are endless as to what you can make.
David: The joining of metals at the molecular level is very fascinating and with technology rapidly advancing, the options are almost limitless. The only limiting factor is your imagination. Welding can be done in space, on land, or underwater. There is such a vast array of specialized welding careers in the industry- it would take more than 10 lifetimes to experience them all.
Carlos: There’ such satisfaction and pride for me when I see the masses of people using the products that I made by welding. To see that soldiers and marines drive the armored vehicles that I welded for them to stay safe.
Roger: I love the security in the sense that after retaining the knowledge of welding and fabrication, it’s very easy to make extra funds or start a small business with very little overhead.
What advice would you give someone interested in the welding?
Shane: Welding opens up the door to a lot of adventure’s and opportunities; it challenges you daily. It’s a skill that can take you around the world. If you can dream it you can build it. A welder’s job is not one that is set in stone. There are thousands of different roles in thousands of different industries working with thousands of different products. One can accomplish great things as a welder. 35 years in the field has given me the opportunity to own my own company, with 100+ full time employees, and build multimillion dollar projects. I’ve made a lot of money and I received the National leadership award from Congress. Looking back over my life, I would do it all again, with no regrets.
David: Pay attention to details, ask questions, specialize and do what you love and have a passion for; the money will come to you.
Carlos: Welding is a great source of income. It’s fun and you will meet great people in this business.
Roger: The person interested in a welding career should not be afraid of minor burns, cuts, dust, dirt, smoke, fumes, or hard work.
What inspired you to teach this subject rather than work in the field?
Shane: I’ve already made a lot of money in my life, traveled the country. In this chapter of my life, I wanted to give back and slow down a bit, as am older now.
David: I saw a demand for skilled and knowledgeable welders. I felt compelled to help pass on trade skills and techniques, so I turned my attention from working in the field to being an instructor.
Carlos: I wanted to share the science of welding. I wanted to improve and refine the economy by teaching students the proper knowledge and information for the workforce.
Roger: I have worked with so many knowledgeable men and women with copious amounts of experience. They passed that information down to me, so I feel obliged to pay it forward!
Do you have a teaching moment at AIM that you want to share?
David: I have had a number of good moments in my short time here at AIM, but one stands out to me most: A graduating student introduced me to his parents and said, “[I] was the best instructor [he] had ever had.” He said, “[I] was more than just a welding instructor, [I] was like a life coach to him,” and that felt good.
Carlos: I teach the do’s and don’ts of interviewing to my students. I show students how to speak to a recruiter. I also teach students to take pride in their work, improve their resume, and land a welding job.
Roger: Everyday working with students who are new to the process is a fun moment.