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No, You Don’t ‘Have to Go to College to Become a Welder’

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Did you need to go to college to become a welder?” I asked. Jeff Jenkins answered with a chuckle. “No, no I didn’t.” Jenkins, owner of an HVAC company and a welding firm in Austin, educated me for the next 25 minutes on what it takes to get into — and succeed at — the trades.

I needed this education because I was confused by an assertion that Paul Tough makes in “Welding won’t make you rich,” an excerpt from his new book, The Years That Matter Most, in the September 2019 issue of The Atlantic. Mr. Tough says that “in order to become a welder, you actually have to go to college.” He makes this point after relating a heartbreaking story about a young man who wanted to better himself and his family’s prospects through education. Orry liked welding in high school and was encouraged by his girlfriend to look at the offerings of the local community college. He decided to pursue Catawba Valley Community College’s associate’s degree in welding technology.

This takeaway from Mr. Tough’s article was recently picked up by Richard Whitmire in Forbes, and further expanded upon:

To gain a welding certification, you first have to go to college (yes, college!) to earn an associate’s degree, [Mr. Tough] said, which requires passing basic classes in math and English and, at the Ohio (sic) community college [Mr. Tough] cited, 13 separate welding courses. The would-be welder Tough profiles in the book struggled with college, fell short of completing and yet faced $19,000 in school debts. 

The skilled craftspeople of my acquaintance beg to differ.:snip:

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