When Alma S. Tuck first enrolled at Blinn College in 1994, she spoke minimal English and questioned whether she would ever succeed in higher education. “I must have taken English at least three times, and math was very difficult,” Tuck said.
But through determination, encouragement from her husband and the help of Blinn faculty and staff, Tuck conquered her early classroom struggles and is now launching her own fabrication and repair business at her shop on Highway 6, about five miles north of Hempstead. She markets her custom ornamental ironwork through her website.
Tuck found her passion in repairing parts in ’94 when she enrolled in a small engine machine course taught by Blinn Instructor Johnnie Schroeder. She has since expanded her knowledge to machining thanks to the College’s A.W. Hodde Technical Education Center.
“My husband was so surprised with what I’d learned that he bought me a machine and a mill,” Tuck said. “Now I’ve got a full shop.” And Tuck doesn’t plan to stop there – she hopes to be one of the first students to earn Blinn’s new welding technology certificate.
In January, the Hodde Center introduced a comprehensive welding certificate that encompasses all its welding courses. To graduate with the certificate, students must complete 340 hours of training, including 120 hours of combined shielded metal arc (stick) and gas metal arc (MIG) welding, another 120 hours of (MIG) welding and 100 hours of gas tungsten arc welding (TIG).
“Our focus is to ensure we are graduating students with the skills they need to become valuable members of the workforce,” said Megan Costanza, dean of Workforce Education.
For students who would like to pursue a welding career, Blinn is partnering with the National Welder Inspection School out of Burton. Students must complete 120 hours of hands-on training at Blinn, then spend six months studying under John Wormeli, a world-renowned welding engineer with more than 40 years of experience. Upon his retirement, Wormeli built the multi-million dollar school as a way to give back to the industry. He still acts as an industry consultant.
“There is a big demand and big money in welding,” Blinn Instructor Keith Vajdak said. “If you can get on with a company, the possibilities are endless.”
Blinn also offers courses designed for students who need only basic welding knowledge, such as farmers or ranchers who need to make minor repairs on their equipment.
“Students don’t have to know anything about welding to take our basic course,” Vajdak said. “We’ll bring the students in and give them the hands-on experience they need to weld properly.” For Tuck, that was the biggest selling point. “In my business, if I’m going to do something, I need to do it right,” she said.
The 12,000-square foot A.W. Hodde, Jr. Technical Education Center was built in 2009 to provide local training for a quality, viable workforce in Washington and the surrounding communities. Its staff works in cooperation with local businesses to provide a well-trained workforce that strengthens the local economy. For more information on the Hodde Center and its course offerings, call 979-830-4443 or visit the website.