Hi, I’m Jesse Srpan from Raw Iron Choppers. I’m a business owner, an entrepreneur, a designer, a fabricator, and a metal artist; but before all of that, I became a welder. Welding actually chose me. Between my interests, my skill-set and kind of my upbringing as a kid, and it really really became something of interest to me that actually became a career opportunity. Welding has opened a lot of doors for me and I know the biggest thing is finding a mentor, maybe an instructor, maybe a person down the street who owns a shop. So I talked with my mentor Ryan Eubank about the multiple paths that welding can lead you to. So we’re in the welding lab here at Lakeland Community College and there’s a huge array of what really can happen down here. Between getting job placement, and you know, getting technically trained for what you want to do and Ryan can really touch off really a lot more because he’s developed a lot of the program and what he likes to see coming through here and what we offer as well. Well Lakeland Community College has a lot to offer. You know, it’s just not the hands-on portion of it that students need to understand, it’s also the technical aspects. It’s the book work. Because when you’re in the booth, there’s not always going to be an instructor there to solve your problems. So if you know the theory that you learn in the class and then you can take it into the booth and as you’re welding, you come up with the problems or scenarios, and you can help solve or create that solution without the help or aid of an instructor, that’s when it all becomes a full circle of being a well-rounded welder or weld technician. At Lakeland Community College we have a degreed program, a certificate program and we also have certification classes, so it can make you a well-rounded individual for when you want to enter into the workforce. It gives you improvements and ways to advance into the company. I’m trying to get to the point with my skills and my work that I have that ability to go out and do any task that my foreman will be able to ask me. It’s go and do this, I can accomplish that and then eventually move up to that foreman position or that assistant foreman position, pusher, whatever it may be. I’d say I definitely want to get into more metal sculpture, armature work. I’m hoping to travel, I want to see different things, maybe do installations on different sites. Contractor work sounds really appealing to me. I’d like to get my fingers in many different pies, try out different things. I don’t like the idea of sitting into one project. And welding affords me that opportunity. And I think that’s the one thing that’s really cool about welding, you create. You could be an art sculptor, you can build structures, you can manufacture parts, it’s got something in it for everybody, and it can it can always build off of that. I think that’s what’s essential with the college and being here is that you can touch on any facet you want, and if it fits your mold or if you want to further your education you can go “maybe it’s not time for a college degree now, or maybe it is.” And vice-versa, you can really get into it deeper and deeper and deeper to further your education years down the road. Continuing education is huge. If you’re not going to school to learn something it’s just paying attention to what the older guys are doing. Everybody is able to teach you something, it’s just are you willing to open your eyes and look at it and interpret what they’re trying to show you. You’ve got to understand, as an individual you don’t want to settle with just a basic job. You want to know how you can advance starting out as a basic welder, yes coming in here and getting a degree or certificate or a certification is absolutely wonderful. But you always want to think on how do you improve on your lifestyle. And here at Lakeland, we expose you to plans and options on how you can advance from a basic welder to an advanced welder. How do you become a foreman? How do you become a supervisor? How do you start your own company? And that’s what the degree program will start. If you want just a certificate to say that you have proof and documentation that you have taken a welding class, and that you have a good knowledge and a background behind it, there’s that also. You make that transition from welding in the shop to applying your skills that you learned right in to the field. And it’s an immediate transition you have to make, but once you do make that, it’s a sense of pride. It’s a sense of your passion about this and you love getting up and everyday and jumping in that tank and learning something new and keep striving and expanding your skills. So what does the future hold for the welding field? Well the welding field is not going away. It’s only getting stronger. The demand for the jobs and skilled workers are better now than they’ve ever been. AWS, the American Welding Society, is projecting there’s going to be over a shortage of 250,000 welding jobs available in North America alone. From new construction to repair to building ships, buildings, cars, planes, trains, welding is always going to be needed. A career in welding can take you in many directions. You can ask your neighbor, you can ask a friend, you can ask a family member, or even if someone is friendly enough, go to their business, go to the college talk to somebody about welding. To learn more, go to AWS.org to start your path into welding.