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Faculty Spotlight: Tommy Myers, Lead Welding Instructor

April 4th, 2018

At 32, Tommy Myers considers himself the “old guy” in the Loenbro Technical Institute’s shop. He’s been a professional welder for 14 years and has seen it all. Since 2014, he’s been sharing his expertise with LTI’s students in his role as lead welding instructor.

 

Myers’ road to Loenbro took him from Western Dakota Tech, his alma mater, to True North Steel. “I learned everything I was going to learn there,” he says, “and then I went to Hills Materials; it was kind-of the same thing.” Not one to burn bridges, Myers stayed on good terms with both companies and with his instructor at Western Dakota Tech, teaching some night classes there. In 2014, he went on to Teach Out, which became LTI in 2016.

 

Tommy MyersWelding became physically demanding, and although that played a part in Myers’ decision to focus on teaching, it wasn’t his primary motivator. “I’m young, but I feel like I have a lot of knowledge of the welding field,” he says, “and I love teaching students everything that I know.”

 

 

Loenbro’s welding program is 12 weeks long, and about 90 percent of students’ time is spent in the shop. With a maximum of eight students per class, there is a considerable amount of one-on-one time with instructors. “I’ll put a hood on, and I’ll sit in somebody’s booth with them their whole class period – four hours,” Myers says. When he was in welding school, the average class size was 70, and instructor time was limited to every couple of weeks. Small class size is one of the main advantages of an LTI education.

 

Another advantage of studying at Loenbro is that the school is accredited through the American Welding Society and is a testing facility. “In South Dakota, we’re the only one on this side of the state that can certify students,” Myers says. “Within 12 weeks, you can be fully certified in the AWS D1.1 code, and you can go work in three months rather than two years. You don’t have to take general education classes or anything like that.”

The focus at Loenbro is on hands-on learning. “The only time we’re in the classroom is if I physically can’t show them something in the shop,” he says. “There are some things like blueprint reading where we will have to sit down upstairs in the classroom, but 90 percent of the time they’re in the shop getting their hands dirty.”

 

Before they get to the shop, however, students must purchase their equipment. “I give them a tool list, and we work with a welding supply store here in Rapid,” Myers says. “They take the tool list with them, and [the store] has it all set out for them. It’s about $333.” Myers says he supplies the more consumable tool, like grinders and grinding discs; students need to purchase their welding hood and jacket, safety-toed boots and small hand tools, such as pliers. After two days of shop- and welding-safety training, students are ready for the shop and 12 weeks of focused training – 24 weeks if they train just four hours a day.

 

At the nine-week point in the welding program, Myers says he sits down with the students to see which way they want to go in the field. “There are different paths to go in the welding field, whether it’s ironworker, pipeline, mining, structural or manufacturing,” he says. “Then I start making calls to get them in the door and get interviews and weld tests.” The job placement rate at Loenbro is an impressive 98 percent. “My name as an instructor rides on how good my students are,” Myers says.

 

There are countless options for welders in the tri-state area, and parent company, Loenbro, is currently short about 70 pipeline welders. They will hire students who opt for pipeline, Myers says. The only downside is that pipeline welders are always traveling. If they don’t want to do that, Myers says local companies are willing to hire LTI graduates. “I’ve got a few students working at Adams-ISC, and True North Steel – I’ve got a few students up there,” he says. “Now with our apprenticeship programs, [Loenbro] is willing to pay for your school if you come work for them.”

 

Since there is such a shortage of welders in the tri-state area, Myers says LTI has gone to some high school job fairs, talking to students about the benefits of a welding career. “Some high school kids don’t know what they want to do yet,” he says. “If you like to be hands-on and not sit in a classroom, that’s our big thing – that and short-term training. Loenbro could have you fully certified and ready for a job in three months, where at the other schools you go for two years and have to take general ed classes.” According to O*NET OnLine, the demand for welders, cutters, solderers and brazers is expected to grow by up to nine percent by the year 2026.

 

With hands-on instruction from experienced welders like Tommy Myers, 10 welding certifications upon graduation, a great beginning wage (Myers says $17 to $21 an hour is average) and job placement assistance, Loenbro Technical Institute is a smart choice for welding training.

 

If you are ready to train for an in-demand career that you can begin in less than 12 weeks, contact Loenbro Technical Institute today. New classes begin every two weeks.

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