Welding “bonds” professionals

Written By: Teresa McCreery
Email Address: teresa.mccreery@jcjc.edu
Date Submitted: 2018-07-05 20:16:14

ELLISVILLE – Most welders find welding fabrication jobs on the oil and gas pipelines, shipyards, and manufacturing facilities. Sometimes, artists learn how to weld to create metal sculptures. However, Jones County Junior College’s Welding for Beginner’s class has sparked a bond amongst professionals who won’t necessarily be looking for another job. Hattiesburg trauma surgeon, Brent Wheeler’s interest in learning how to weld spread to include other unlikely welding students like Stryker Orthopedics sales representative, Davey Martin, and A&R Garden owner, Perry Arnold. Also a member of this informal “welding club” is retired Baton Rouge, Louisiana automotive shop owner, Stanley Odom, and Hattiesburg veterinarian, Keith Davis.
“I’ve had a welder for years and I have a welding book but that’s not the way to do this,” said Wheeler who lives on a farm and raises barrel racing horses. His desire to learn to weld rubbed off on Arnold while shopping at his store.
“I found out about the welding program at Jones through my customers,” said Arnold. “I didn’t know how to weld but I thought I’d like to learn.”
Two nights a week, Monday and Thursday, several medical and business professionals forget about their day jobs and become welding students under the direction of JCJC welding instructor, Tracy Warden. He teaches the basics of welding, including, welding safety, general cutting and fabrication, ornamental iron working, stick welding, wire welding and farm welding. All of the professionals agree the actual welding is the easy part of the process. It is the preparation that is difficult.
“There’s a lot of math, trigonometry, calculus, but you don’t realize it. Once you sit down and Tracy explains it to you, you can understand it. Anyone who is a really good welder is talented in a lot of other ways too,” said Arnold.
As a trauma surgeon, Wheeler admits having steady hands help. Preparation and making sure things fit together are other similarities welders and surgeons have in common. However, Wheeler said one of the main reasons he wanted to take the class was to fix things on his farm. Learning how to weld has helped to cut down on repair costs. Another good reason to learn to weld is to create things. During the last 10-week class, Wheeler built a horse spa with a little help from his classmates and teacher.
“Horses are athletes so they get sore. Just like major league pitchers take ice baths, horses have cold water spas where they walk in and stand in the water as it circulates around their legs to help with soreness. If you bought one, it would cost about $85,000. I saw a stainless steel model and I knew I could make that so it’s been a class project that cost about $2,000 for the spa,” said Wheeler.
Anyone can bring a project to get the classes’ opinion on the best way to fixing broken machinery parts or how to create things, like fire pits or shooting targets. Welding also has other benefits the professionals said.
“Our daytime jobs carry a certain amount of stress and you can come and do this and focus on the welding. Also, you never stop learning. This horse spa is way more complicated than anything I tried in my first class. There is always something we can learn in this class because you can’t learn everything there is to learn in the eight hours we’re here every week,” said Wheeler.
The JCJC Workforce College course is offered at the Whitehead Advanced Technology Center in Ellisville’s Technology Park, off Interstate 59.  Classes meet on Monday and Thursday evenings from 5 p.m. until 9 p.m. for 80-hours of instruction and hands-on welding fabrication. The cost is $150 for the 10-week course and upon successful completion of the course, students will receive a JCJC Workforce College Certificate. For more information call the JCJC ATC at (601) 477-4114. 


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