Meet Shelton Sullivan
Shelton, aged 28 from Brunswick, GA, graduated from Tulsa Welding School – Jacksonville campus in July 2015. Shelton completed the Professional Welder program with straight ‘A’s and a 4.0 GPA; he had perfect attendance (despite driving 140 miles round trip every day), and was valedictorian of his class.
Congratulations Shelton; what made you choose a career in welding?
In the beginning I was inspired by my high school teacher to take welding; it’s something I’ve always wanted to do as a career.
You’re 28 now; when did you start welding?
I started welding in high school, then after high school I went to college in Brunswick for it. I managed to get everything down in structural welding, but I didn’t get all the skills I actually needed. I’d heard about pipe welding, but I didn’t take any pipe welding classes there.
Did you get a welding job after going to that school?
I looked before, during, and after graduation with no luck; I realized I was missing some skills that I was going to need. Looking back, one of the reasons I couldn’t get a job was I didn’t know how to weld pipe.
How have you earned your living for the last nine or ten years since high school?
At first I worked in a pizza restaurant, but three years later, after college, I got work as a machinist. It isn’t exactly the welding field that I wanted, but at least I was around metals and I could make stuff.
Why did you decide to go back to school and come to TWS?
I was making money as a machinist, but not enough to where I needed to be. I could make more welding.
What was your favorite part of the Professional Welder program?
The thing I enjoyed most was the instructors; they were willing to help me learn and keep me on track. They taught me things I didn’t know even though I’d been to a welding school before; when it came to pipe welding, which is what really interests me, they pushed me to the limits. I made ‘Top One’eight times.
You graduated a few weeks ago, are you working yet?
I’m still working the same job as a machinist; I’m looking for a welding job at the company where I’m at and elsewhere. There was a job coming up down in Jacksonville, I even had an interview, but then they started laying off people, so they didn’t schedule me for a welding test.
What kind of welding job are you hoping for?
I just need a job to get me started; my first welding job will be my first in the field, so I want to test myself and see how good I do, get my confidence up. I’d like a job where I can save enough money to be able to one day travel to other jobs. I’d like to travel around the country. But I want to try myself out first, get some experience here. If I know I can do a good job, without complaints from employers, then I might just take a shot to go travel the world welding.
Are you confident about getting a job?
I’m confident of getting a job, but I’m not confident in pipe welding yet. I need more practice; it took me seven tries, all the way to graduation day, to pass the last welding test at TWS. So I want more practice before trying to go out in the field as a pipefitter; if I don’t it’s going to hurt me. If I plan on being a pipe welder, a pipefitter, or a pipe combo welder, I’d rather try to complete that test successfully four times in a row. Then I know for sure that I can go in and take that kind of position.
How are you going to get that practice?
I haven’t figured that out yet. The school will let me go back and practice for free, but I’m working and I’m an hour plus drive away from Jacksonville and the campus is only open Monday through Friday.
What will you do with your first welding paycheck?
I’ll go put it in the bank. With five weeks left of school my car broke down; my granddad let me use his car to drive down to Jacksonville every day and finish up the program. He really wanted me to finish, he wants to see me succeed in life. I’m trying to make the right decision; whether I fix this car or get a new one will depend on the job I get and how much travel I have to do to get there.
If you could pick and choose what would be your dream job?
I really want to focus on welding pipe because I think that’s where the money’s at… But it doesn’t really matter what I weld; I just want to be considered a specialist in what I’m doing. I’d like to try pipe welding, pipefitting, maybe work in a shipyard. If I can learn to weld anything and everything, without any trouble, then I know I’m good for any job.
What’s your favorite aspect of the welding trade?
It’s both the creativity and the money. There’s a satisfaction of building something with your hands, and then getting a good paycheck for it.
Have you made some lasting connections at the school?
I met some people that I would never have met, and I made some friends along the way. We may see each other on different jobs; we kind of connected. Even though I was from Brunswick, GA, and most of them lived in Jacksonville, they warmed up to me when they knew how serious I was about becoming a welder. Most of them had no welding experience or training, and because I had a slight advantage on them from going to school before, they’d ask me questions. I was happy to help; we were all in the same situation at school, and I just like helping people when they need it.
What advice do you have for new students just starting out?
If you really want a welding job, listen to your instructors and pay attention. They’re trying to help you build your own skills and become a good welder, so if they tell you to do things over, do it. If you go to TWS and give it 100% and learn everything, you’ll become a great welder too, maybe even better than me some day!
What do you do for fun?
Martial Arts is something I like to do; I’ve been doing it since I was six years old. I feel like I was put on this earth to do martial arts, but I can’t really do it without the financial backup. I’ve learned many different styles, weapons too, throughout the years. I first learned from my dad, then at 17 I went to Karate class, then at 23 I learned styles that would be useful in a street fight scenario.
If you were a millionaire for a day, what would you do?
That’s a little tricky! I’d save the money and take a year off and catch up on other things. I’d really like to work three months a year, and earn enough to spend the rest of the year doing martial arts.
Let’s finish with some quick fire questions?
- Football or baseball? Football.
- Ford or Chevy? I’ve had two Fords and they both broke down on me!
- Pizza or wings? Pizza.
- Win the lottery or find a perfect job? Both! I’d like to be backed up both ways, financially and job wise!
If you’re a TWS graduate and would like to share your success and be an inspiration to others, please email Social@StrataTech.com to be considered for a Graduate Connection interview, please include details such as your graduation date (month/year), program and campus name (Tulsa/Jacksonville/Houston).