(ROSENBERG, Texas) – Sparks flew as students practiced their craft recently in the welding lab at Texas State Technical College’s campus in Fort Bend County.
Lead instructor Jerroll Hodge walked from booth to booth, straightening strip curtains and answering questions from students.
With an expansion completed in December 2020, the welding shop now houses 160 booths for students to learn and obtain relevant, hands-on training. The shop’s scope, organization and inclusion of the latest and newest equipment are often perks for prospective students.
Hodge, who is a TSTC graduate himself, has worked at TSTC as a welding instructor for nearly three years. In spite of the pandemic, he has seen his program nearly double its growth during his tenure — from about 100 students and four instructors when he started to just over 200 students and 10 instructors this semester.
“It’s happening at a pretty rapid pace,” he said. “It’s awesome.”
TSTC offers an Associate of Applied Science degree in Welding Technology, a Structural Welding certificate of completion, a Structural and Pipe Welding certificate of completion, and a Basic Welding-Multiple Processes occupational skills award.
The program’s hybrid format includes virtual learning and in-person instruction as students hone their welding skills. Day and night classes on TSTC’s Fort Bend County campus provide the flexibility that some students may need to complete their training.
Hodge and the other welding instructors see students enter the program from all walks of life.
“We’ll get students that come in here and have no idea what they want to get out of it,” he said. “Anything might spark their interest.”
Some of the students who thrive are those who appreciate the craft of welding, Hodge added.
“They’re not really coming in because somebody said, hey, you can make a lot of money doing that,” he said. “The ones that come in and just truly like welding, they’re the ones who stand out.”
The Welding Technology program is part of TSTC’s Money-Back Guarantee. If graduates of the program do not get hired in six months after graduation, the college will refund their tuition money.
Welding’s inclusion in the Money-Back Guarantee highlights just how certain TSTC is that graduates will get hired — especially in a career with such a bright outlook.
In Texas, welders can earn $45,250 per year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, adding that Texas employs the highest number of welders in the nation — with the Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land metropolitan area hosting the most welders out of all other areas in the U.S. Onetonline.org predicts that the number of welding jobs in the state will see 13% growth through 2028.
Hodge takes pride in the way his program prepares students — like the one he used to be — for success.
“This is an amazing program,” he said. “We will give you everything we can — and we try to stick to those TSTC standards. A lot of places, they put these high standards at the front door, but when it’s go time, instructors aren’t doing what they said they’d be doing. There’s more than one way you have to teach. Everyone learns differently. All the instructors here try to mold their teaching to their students.”
Learn more about TSTC at tstc.edu.