Texas Welders are Getting Jobs Before They Graduate

Welding has found a new life in Texas and the Gulf Coast region, and community colleges are trying to keep up.

By Brenda SalinasMarch 22, 2015 8:52 pm

Irving-based Fluor Corporation plans to hire 500 welders in the next year for projects in Texas. Human Resources Executive Jim Hanna says in his 33 years at Fluor, he’s never seen this kind of demand.

“There really hadn’t been a reinvestment in the skill sets within the construction industry,” Hanna says. “And you couple that with the workforces that are at retirement age, and there’s a demand within the construction workforce to give people the skill sets to meet the future demands,”

Enrollment at trade schools across the state is on the rise. At Austin Community College, Majorie LaRowe enrolled more than 500 welding students at the Riverside Campus this semester.

“As many seats as we can offer, that’s how many we usually fill,” LaRowe says. “So, since we’ve been offering more seats, adding more sections each semester, we’ve been getting larger total enrollment numbers.” But LaRowe says ACC can’t add seats fast enough.

“We get constant calls and emails asking for more students that we can churn out really,” LaRowe says. “Right now there’s a large demand for pipe welders just south of us, we’ve gotten quite a few inquiries about that.”

Construction companies need welders so badly that they’ll hire them even before they’ve graduated. Twenty-eight year old Michael Reyes is in his third semester of school.

“I actually just got hired at Austin Water Jet,” Reyes says. “It’s a shop job and it’s a decent amount of money, it’s opened up a lot of doors for me and the experience I’m going to get there as well as getting here, it’ll pay off.”

He’s happy welding around the clock for school and for work.

“Quality of life is definitely there, having a reason to wake up, better outcome for what I want to do for a living, definitely have a family to support, two beautiful kids, they’re the reason why I’m doing this,” Reyes says.

His 27-year-old classmate Michael Morrin says it feels good to be in demand even before getting his associate’s degree.

“I went around applying and I had several people offered me a job on the spot, several people wanted to get back to me, I had to turn down the guys that wanted to get back to me,” Morrin says.

The paycheck is good too. “The rates are pushing up to 38, 40 dollars an hour because the demand is so great and there’s not enough qualified welders,” Hanna says. “I see this demand over the next seven to ten years, it’s easier for me to place a qualified welder today than someone with a four year degree.”

Hanna says you might see a momentary pause in pipeline construction due to low oil prices, but most of those contracts were commissioned long ago, meaning the welding boom might be here to stay.

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