(WACO, Texas) – Samuel Esqueda, of George West, began welding when he took his first agriculture class as a high school sophomore.
“It stuck with me more than anything else,” he said. “I wanted to turn it into a career.”
Esqueda is pursuing an Associate of Applied Science degree in Welding Technology at Texas State Technical College’s Waco campus. He is scheduled to graduate in 2022.
“It is way above what I was expecting,” he said. “It is fun getting out and welding.”
Esqueda said he has found the online portion of his studies challenging, mainly because he has not done entire classes online before. Earlier this year, TSTC’s Welding Technology program adopted a hybrid teaching format with hands-on labs being done in-person, and lectures and quizzes completed online. This was done due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Esqueda is already planning his career path after graduation.
“I’m looking in fabrication and where they (the employers) need me in one spot,” he said.
Jobs for brazers, cutters, solderers and welders are projected to rise to about 452,500 by 2029, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The nationwide job growth is attributed to repairing the nation’s aging infrastructure.
“We have been monitoring online to keep up with what’s going on,” said Carl Wilmeth, co-lead instructor of TSTC’s Welding Technology program. “We know we have new construction in Waco. We are going to attack it and make new contacts.”
Texas had more than 50,700 brazers, cutters, solderers and welders making an annual mean wage of $46,940 as of May 2019, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Jose Palacios, manager of business and industry initiatives for the Heart of Texas Workforce Development Board Inc. in Waco, said welders are in steady demand in Central Texas.
Palacios said utilizing the federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act and partnering with the Greater Waco Advanced Manufacturing Academy are ways the workforce board motivates people of all ages to pursue welding and other technical fields.
“We work pretty hard and fill those positions and promote the career pathways,” Palacios said.
Wilmeth and Griffin Smyth, co-lead instructor of TSTC’s Welding Technology program, said its statewide advisory board is being revamped, with new companies invited to have representation. Each of TSTC’s programs has advisory boards consisting of business professionals who give insight into what needs to be taught to students to match what is going on in industry.
Students graduating from TSTC’s Welding Technology program leave with skills in gas metal arc welding, gas tungsten arc welding, flux-cored arc welding and shielded metal arc welding. Students graduate also versed in welding codes and standards.
Esqueda said high school students and those who want a career change should consider welding.
“If you like hands-on work and are not afraid to get dirty, this is the job you want to do,” he said.
Registration continues for the spring semester, and scholarships are available. For more information on Texas State Technical College, go to tstc.edu.