FFA Students Take Advantage of School’s Training and Numerous Job Opportunities
It’s not often that you hear of a school that has 1,500 job openings from employers that it can not fill with available graduates. This is exactly the situation that Tulsa Welding School (TWS) of Tulsa, Oklahoma faced in 1999. For every one of its 359 graduates of the Master Welder Program, the school had approximately five job openings from which the student could choose. As the numbers demonstrate, skilled welders are in high demand and to provide more students to fill those openings, TWS, the largest accredited welding school in the country, has an ambitious agenda. This agenda includes a new campus in Jacksonville, Florida scheduled to open in 2001; new recruitment activities; and an eduational/business alliance with a welding manufacturer, The Lincoln Electric Company, to provide high-quality machinery and consumable products creating the best possible learning environment for students.
One group that TWS is targeting for its new student recruitment activities is the Future Farmers of America (FFA). These students, with their strong personal values and previous welding experience from farm-related repairs, are a perfect fit for TWS aggressive programs. And, to reach these students, TWS has partnered with Lincoln Electric to participate in FFA events around the country.
“This year we plan to take part in five FFA conventions including the national convention in Louisville, Kentucky,” says Roger Hess, TWS president. “These events, which attract a large number of students, are a perfect place for us to showcase what our school has to offer. This year, we’re even going to be involved in the welding competition that is part of the national convention.”
The Lincoln/TWS team has also been part of FFA instructor classes where high school teachers learn new techniques or master more advanced welding skills.
In addition to the FFA conventions, TWS also has a presence at the Vocational Industrial Clubs of America (VICA) welding contest. VICA uses the TWS facility for its annual welding competition, which draws dozens of competitors each year, starting at the district level and ending at the state championship hosted in Tulsa this year at TWS.
A Real World Curriculum
What does TWS offer students that makes it stand apart? One of its unique aspects is the innovative Design a Curriculum (DACUM) process. Under DACUM, TWS uses the experiences of industry professionals as a basis for the curriculum.
“We locate a panel of field and shop welding experts and inspectors who spend several days telling us everything that makes them effective at their jobs, be it a welding skill or personal attribute. Then we implement those ideas in our lesson plans,” explains Hess. “Unlike many other schools, we don’t teach right from a textbook. We use a textbook to help supplement the lesson plans. Students also have plenty of hands-on welding experience, as about 80 percent of the training is done in the welding lab.”
TWS currently offers four welding programs to its students; these include the Master Welder, Combination Welder, Structural Welder and the Associate of Occupational Studies in Welding Technology degree. These full-time training programs are offered during the morning, afternoon and evening.
Most entering students select the seven-month Master Welder program because of the numerous welding specialties and processes that it teaches. This program, consisting of 10 three-week training phases, prepares graduates for entry-level positions in structural, pipe, thin alloy and pipeline welding. Key processes learned include SMAW, GMAW, GTAW, FCAW and high frequency GTAW.
But other students prefer a program with fewer welding specialties, such as the Combination Welder or Structural Welder programs. These are simply shorter versions of Master Welder program, containing only five to seven of the Master Welder phases.
After completing the Master Welder program, graduates who meet or exceed the cumulative grade point average and admissions requirements may opt to obtain their Associate Degree in Welding Technology. These individuals advance to an additional seven-month training program, which affords them the needed skills to become a Welding Quality Assurance/Quality Control Inspector.
“Our goal is to offer our students world-class training,” says Michael Harter, Chairman at the Tulsa Welding School. “Currently, 40 percent of our student body is composed of students from outside of Tulsa and that number is growing every year.”
To further its mission of world-class welding education, TWS has recently entered into an educational/business alliance with Lincoln Electric. Under this alliance, the school over time will convert its Tulsa facility to be 100 percent Lincoln – both in x. In addition, TWS will make its facility available for use by Lincoln representatives for training and product displays as well as share educational instruction between the experts at both entities. The alliance also includes even more FFA shows that the TWS/Lincoln team can take part in.
Another part of the alliance calls for the new Jacksonville, Florida campus (which will open in 2001) to be 100 percent Lincoln as well. “We decided that we wanted this new facility to be a sole supplier operation and so we began to evaluate bidders,” says Harter. “We chose Lincoln because of a number of factors – its reputation, quality, and investment in educational initiatives. Basically, we felt a good synergy between the two companies.”
TWS has been very impressed with the service it has received from Lincoln and especially from its local representative, Eddie Harper. “Eddie’s done an excellent job in communication with our staff and in training us whenever we get new equipment. He visits our facility at least once a week to make sure we have everything that we need. Harper as well as Rick Harrell and Doug Krebs of the Florida Lincoln offices, were instrumental in putting together the new educational/business alliance.”
The TWS Jacksonville facility, which will accommodate up to 400 students, will even have a Lincoln representative permanently on site who will use the facility for training and demonstrations to Lincoln customers. He will also serve as an advisor to TWS to keep them abreast of new products and technologies.
The alliance also allows for other benefits between the partners. Lincoln benefits from having TWS evaluate new products. According to Harter, TWS recently tested Lincoln’s new Excalibur® electrodes and were very pleased with the performance. For TWS, the relationship means that its inspection classes have the opportunity to visit The Welding Garage at the Indy 500 which uses exclusively Lincoln machines. “Our class was so excited to be a part of the racing scene, they were walking on cloud nine for weeks after their participation in that event,” says Hess.
Not only is TWS making plans for a new site in Florida, the school recently moved to a new, 40,000 square foot facility in Tulsa and outfitted this site with Lincoln equipment. “We knew that we would need additional welding equipment in the new facility and we began to look into what would best meet our needs,” says Hess. “We met with Lincoln representative Eddie Harper who wanted us to weld with the Wire-Matic™ 255. Immediately, we knew that this was the machine we wanted for our school because of its ease of operation and features so we purchased 17 Wire-Matic 255 units.”
Students entering TWS have a wide range of welding experience-some having never even welded before-so it was very important that the machines be as uncomplicated as possible. The Wire-Matic features only two dials – one for voltage and another for wire feed speed. In addition, its compact size and movable undercarriage make it ideal for educational use.
“The Wire-Matics eliminate student frustration that comes from working with machinery that is overly complicated. This way they can spend time perfecting their skill, instead of worrying about a manufacturer’s equipment problem. Both students and instructors appreciate this.” Hess noted.
Not only are the Wire-Matics easy to use, but they are environmentally friendly as well. They produce very little spatter and smoke, which means less class time wasted on cleanup and fresher air to breathe. “My office overlooks the welding lab, and there is very little smoke rising from the Wire-Matics,” Hess said.
The Wire-Matics are used primarily on mild steel ranging in thickness from ¼” to ½”. TWS uses .045″ wire for flux-core and .035″ wire for MIG welding, with a tri-mix shielding gas. The machines are frequently put to the test, operating up to 15 hours a day, five days a week. “We expected that Lincoln would produce the superior machine, and they have definitely proven us right,” Harter said.
Today, TWS has a total of 160 welding stations, 80 of which contain Lincoln products. Other Lincoln products used by the school include the Idealarc® AC/DC Stick, Idealarc 250, Idealarc TIG 300 and Idealarc DC 400 welders. “We have had some of these machines for more than 20 years. They are well made and stand up to our rigorous environment,” Hess said.
In the future, TWS hopes to keep expanding with a West Coast campus to train even more skilled welders to fill the many open positions.