(ABILENE, Texas) – It was during one of three tours in Iraq that U.S. Army veteran Joshua Hulseman picked up a welding torch for the first time.
Now he is working to make welding a second career by studying for a certificate of completion in Welding Technology at Texas State Technical College.
“My only experience was during my third tour in Iraq when I was in the welding and fabrication shop,” said Hulseman, whose 13 years in the Army included a tour in Afghanistan. “I was working on recovered vehicles so they could be put back in the field. I had to learn from the guys around me.”
What Hulseman learned from the other soldiers was a lot of the basics of stick welding, and it stuck with him.
“I knew I could make a career out of this,” he said of welding. “I did not have any MIG (metal inert gas) or TIG (tungsten inert gas) welding experience before. I knew I would need to learn how to do that in a career.”
The San Angelo resident toured TSTC’s Sweetwater and Abilene welding labs when he was deciding where to study. Because the Abilene campus was opening a new cohort first, he decided to begin school there. He is scheduled to graduate this fall.
Hulseman recently completed his first week of TIG welding training with the instructors.
“It was getting to me, but all I needed to do was get up and walk around,” he said. “The more I work on my TIG techniques, I know I will feel more comfortable with my work.”
Days in the lab are Hulseman’s time to show himself and the instructors what he has learned.
“I knew when I enrolled I would be allowed to have more hood time,” he said, referring to the safety hoods worn by welders. “It is important to get in here and practice what you are shown.”
He also likes how Greg Nicholas, a Welding Technology instructor at TSTC’s Abilene campus, and the other instructors operate the lab.
“This is the cleanest facility I have been in,” Hulseman said. “We are always told about the importance of safety, and it shows. The quality of the equipment we can use is also great. You can see why the instructors take pride in the program.”
Nicholas said helping Hulseman, and all military veterans, is important to everyone at TSTC.
“This is something we owe to our veterans, no matter the program,” he said. “When they come out of the military, they are looking for a second career. We are here to help fill that gap. That makes me and all of our instructors feel great at the end of the day.”
According to onetonline.org, welders can earn a yearly median salary of more than $48,000 in Texas. Welding jobs were expected to increase 23% between 2020 and 2030 in the state, according to the website.
TSTC offers Welding Technology at each of its 10 campuses located throughout Texas. The program is one of nine at TSTC that have money-back guarantees. The college’s commitment to participating 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 guarantee, visit tstc.edu/mbg.
Registration for the fall semester is underway. For more information about TSTC, visit tstc.edu.