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(SWEETWATER, Texas) – Ronald Jones, of Hamlin, was laid off in the spring. He took the advice of his wife and enrolled in Texas State Technical College’s Welding Technology program.

“At that time it was hard for people to get a job. My wife said I should take the opportunity and pursue the welding program,” Jones said. “With that happening to me, I did not get down. I took it as a blessing in disguise.”

Attending TSTC is not new to Jones. After graduating from Hamlin High School in 2003, he attended and later graduated with a certificate in Automotive Collision and Management Technology from TSTC. When it was time to look for a welding program, Jones knew he wanted to return to the TSTC campus in Sweetwater.

He got his finances in order and, with his wife’s encouragement, began classes this fall. Jones said he has not decided if he wants to pursue a certificate or an associate degree, but he knows he will receive a good education.

“I was blessed that I did not have to use student loans to go to school,” he said. “I know TSTC will prepare me for a career.”

Despite being one of the oldest students in his class, Jones said the camaraderie is what he enjoys most during lab sessions.

“I enjoy coming in here and talking to these guys. I know they are younger than me, but it is good to just talk prior to starting our labs,” he said.

Jones has always found welding to be an interesting field. He admitted that his only prior welding experience was doing some stick welding during high school shop classes.

“I told my dad when I was young that I would like to be one of them,” he said of welders in his hometown. “From age 16 on, I had been thinking of pursuing this field.”

Over the last four years, he thought more about pursuing a welding job but knew he would need to learn more about it.

One of the hardest parts for him is learning to read blueprints and then welding to the specifications. Jones said over time he will learn to do it without thinking about it first.

With a goal of making welding a career, Jones is looking at West Texas opportunities.

“I was really surprised by the number of opportunities. I figured West Texas would be like a lot of the bigger cities, and it would be hard to find a job,” he said. “The jobs available out here are actually surprisingly good.”

For more information about TSTC, visit tstc.edu.

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