October 11, 2016
In Blinn College’s Associate of Applied Science (AAS) Welding Program, Michael Wilkerson is learning to create new bonds or repair those that have been damaged, skills that will help him raise the capital he needs to help others create new bonds of their own.
Wilkerson’s goal of creating a faith-based recovery center in the Brazos Valley earned him recognition as Blinn’s Technical & Community Programs October 2016 Student of the Month.
“He has come into this program with a determination to succeed,” said Dickie Jones, Welding Instructor. “He has worked in a variety of careers, and he is at a point in his life where he is bound and determined to be successful.”
Wilkerson learned basic welding skills at Graham High School, approximately an hour south of Wichita Falls. He started working as a welder out of high school, and in 2006 earned his commercial driver’s license. He worked four years as a professional truck driver before getting into the construction trade in 2010.
He now works at a local cabinet company, and for a friend who remodels local homes. However, Wilkerson knows that to reach his dreams, he needs a job that offers possibilities for the future.
That is why he chose Blinn College’s Welding Program. The College helped Wilkerson identify financial aid opportunities, ensuring that he had an affordable path to an AAS degree. The program also includes a welding internship in partnership with local companies.
Welders often earn between $20 and $25 per hour, and with plenty of overtime opportunities available, skilled workers can earn between $70,000 and $80,000 per year.
“I’m 40 years old,” Wilkerson said. “I need to start thinking about getting medical benefits and retirement packages.”
Said Jones, “The more procedures you can weld in, the more money you can earn. If you can only perform stick welding, you won’t earn as much as the welder who can perform stick and TIG welding. Our program ensures that each graduate has the well-rounded skills base to maximize their earnings potential.”
Wilkerson has big plans for his future earnings. Having battled his own addiction, Wilkerson has now been drug-free for more than two years. He hopes that by opening a faith-based recovery center in the Brazos Valley, he can pay his own blessings forward.
“There are a lot of people hurting, and they need someone to care for them and help them through it,” Wilkerson said. “God put it in my heart to do this.”
Wilkerson enjoys the atmosphere and camaraderie of Blinn’s Welding Program, and the feeling of accomplishment at the end of the day when he can point to a successful weld. Approximately 20 percent of the program is spent in the classroom, with the remaining 80 percent spent in hands-on instruction.
Wilkerson is working toward his 60-credit hour AAS degree, which includes courses in oxy-fuel welding and cutting, shielded metal arc (stick) welding, gas metal arc (MIG) welding, gas tungsten arc (TIG) welding, and pipe welding. The program also includes a welding internship in partnership with local companies.
Students who complete the welding AAS degree graduate with 1,776 hours of specialized instruction and meet the national standards set by the National Center for Construction Education and Research and the American Welding Society. On their way to a degree, Blinn students can earn Level I and II certificates and an occupational skills award.
“I have done a lot of work that I didn’t enjoy, but I did it to pay the bills,” Wilkerson said. “This is something that I really enjoy doing.”
To enroll in future welding courses or learn more about the program, contact Jones at firstname.lastname@example.org.