Eye Piece: The Spark

It isn’t always easy to find a job that you enjoy and that pays the bills, but a group Western Technical College students have found a career field that shows promise to do both.

“The day is pretty filled. We work from 6:50 a.m. until sometimes until 5:00 pm.. It’s almost like a full-time job coming into our program,” said Jeff Cermak, welding instructor at Western.

“You know how some people go to the gym for their stress relief, I love putting on my welding gear and laying down an awesome bead. You just feel so accomplished when you do that,” said Shelby Westpfahl, a student at Western. 

“We are more than willing to have a person come in her with zero experience and start them out. We start everybody out as if they don’t know anything about welding or don’t have any understanding of it and it doesn’t seem to have any relevance on their success,” said Cermak.

“I’ve never welded before until I got to class here and I was welding on the first day and I just fell completely in love with it,” said Josh Sukow, a student in the welding program. “I wanted to join, because it was just something I was good at when I was younger in high school. I think I did two or three different welding classes in high school and then it just kind of gave me the push to want to further my training in it and whatnot and possibly get a career.”

“We do stick welding, we do MIG welding, we do oxy fuel welding, we do TIG welding, we also teach them the cutting processes, plasma cutting and a little bit of programming on a C & C cutting machine to begin with,” said Cermak.

“The ability to make whatever your mind can come up with and to have the skills to do something like that, to build amazing things, I just love that I’m learning the skill sets to do that,” said Westpfahl.

“We think of welding as maybe manufacturing, working in a booth consistently,” said Cermak. “Those jobs are available, but you think about the construction field, the bridge work, putting up buildings, doing all that iron working.”

“There’s so many fields of welding you can do. You can do fabrication, body repair, stuff like that,” Westpfahl said. “Next year, I am on track to go to the DIT school in Seattle for under water welding. I probably would like to get a travelling welding job, because I want to see the world and if I can get paid to see the world, that’s even better.”

“I highly recommend the program for women and men. I mean, if you’re looking for something to travel or a good paying job, I know plenty, I live in Tomah and plenty of places around the Tomah area actually offer welding jobs and you can really earn a good living doing that. So, if you’re not afraid to get dirty, I’d say get out there and start welding,” said Westpfahl.

The welding program at Western is currently in a temporary location just behind the Marcus Cinema on Ward Avenue, but they will be moving back to the Western campus this summer with an completely new facility.