(ABILENE, Texas) – After one of Zach Aiken’s favorite teachers left his high school, Aiken found a new passion in life: welding.
While attending Liberty Hill High School, Aiken started a journey to join law enforcement. But when the teacher leading that program left prior to Aiken’s sophomore year, he decided to find a different career and found he enjoyed welding things together during agricultural science classes.
“I am going to make this my career,” said the Texas State Technical College Welding Technology student. “That is why I am studying to earn my Associate of Applied Science degree.”
Aiken was one of several high school students to participate in TSTC’s welding competition in May. But even before entering the event, he knew he would be attending TSTC.
“A family friend told me about TSTC, saying it would be the best place to learn welding,” he said. “When I came for the competition, I already knew this is where I wanted to go to school.”
While Aiken finished fourth in the competition, he said being able to work in the shop and talking to instructors validated his decision.
“Lei (Barnes) is a great instructor,” he said. “Lei is very detail-oriented and wants to make sure we are better welders.”
Before beginning the program, Aiken talked to TSTC instructor Greg Nicholas about his options.
“Greg talked me into earning an associate degree because I wanted to make this my career,” he said. “After graduating, I plan to do ironworking.”
Barnes said Aiken and his classmates are among the best first-semester welding students he has seen at TSTC.
“The group we have right now is working really hard, and they are some of our strongest welders,” he said. “They are going to have promising futures in the workforce.”
Aiken likes the class environment.
“Our class is not too big, so we get a lot of one-on-one time with Lei and the instructors,” he said. “It may not seem like much while we are here, but welding six hours for two days in school is great.”
Aiken’s welding passion led him to Abilene, where he now lives and works.
“I am working full time building fences,” he said. “It is great that TSTC works with you to schedule school and work together.”
Welding is not only Aiken’s career choice, but also his therapy.
“It is therapy for me under the (welding) hood,” he said. “Everything is different when you are welding. You are working to make sure it works and are only thinking about what you have to do.”
According to onetonline.org, welders can earn a yearly median salary of more than $45,000 in Texas. These jobs are expected to increase 13% by 2028 in the state, according to the website.
TSTC offers Welding Technology at each of its 10 campuses located throughout Texas.
Welding Technology is one of nine programs at TSTC that have money-back guarantees. The college’s commitment to welding students is simple: If they do not have a job in their field within six months of graduation, they will receive a full refund of their tuition. For more information on the Money-Back Guarantee program, visit https://www.tstc.edu/admissions/tuition/.
For more information about TSTC, visit tstc.edu.