Forging futures: Fred Eberle’s adult welding program shapes skilled tradesmen

BUCKHANNON – When sparks fly at the Fred Eberle Technical Center, it’s usually a sign that students in the adult welding class are busy forging a new path for themselves. This June, five standout students will take their talents to the national stage in Atlanta.

Adult Career Education welding instructor Trey Fulton praised several of his students for winning every adult welding contest at the state Skills USA Competition back in March.

“Olivia Shaver won the individual welding competition; the fabrication competition was won by a three-person team of Landon Lewis, Cole Shreve and Kiana Bolyard; and welding sculpture was won by Darrick Gould,” Fulton said. “Those five students will be going to Atlanta at the end of June to showcase their abilities at the national competition. That’s a huge honor — I have some wonderful students. They are devoted, they are hardworking and they deserve every compliment that they’ve earned. They are phenomenal; they’re the best I’ve had so far.”

The adult welding class at Fred Eberle is a 600-hour course that begins in September and ends in May. The program is three to four days a week and takes place in the evening.

“We’re one of the only adults-only classes,” Fulton said. “All these other schools, they’ll take adults, but they have to go to school alongside the high schoolers. It’s a 600-hour accredited course. Most of my students have no experience when they come in, so every student moves at their own pace, and that’s the way I have my program set up.”

Fulton said he ensures every weld a student completes is set up in a way where it will progress them to the next level.

“I make sure that for the next weld, they are able to feed off the one they just competed,” Fulton said. “Something that sets us apart is the amount of fabrication and blueprint interpretation we do.”

The instructor also customizes his curriculum to each student’s needs.

“If I have a student who wants to be a pipeliner, I can focus him on that; if I have one who wants to be a fabricator or one who wants to be an ironworker or boilermaker, once we get through the basics of every position, every process, I can then start singling them out and working with them on the job title they want,” Fulton said. “I myself still work during the day, and I work with six of my former students.”

The adult welding program prides itself on a 90 percent certification rating and a 90 percent job placement rating, which are among the highest in the state.

“We are able to reach out to companies outside of the local region,” Fulton said. “I’m actually planning on taking a group of students down to Roanoke, Virginia, next month to the Tread Corporation. They reached out to me, and they’re really interested in hiring several of these students for not just now but for the future.”

“We get a lot of students who use this program as a means to break the norm of where they’re from,” Fulton added. “We have these students from rural areas where, frankly, there’s not a lot for them, so they want to learn this trade to better themselves, and that’s great.”

As a welder and teacher, Fulton has also seen an increased interest in the welding industry in recent years.

“In the last couple of years, people have seen the need,” he said. “They’re logging onto Indeed, they’re on Facebook, and they’re seeing people in need of welders. Good livings can be made with it, so I think that’s a big reason as to why people are starting to gravitate more and more towards welding.”

“When I first came here, I had six students. I interviewed 20 for this course this year, so it’s growing exponentially,” he added. “Eventually, I want to have a full shop, and I want to be able to put people to work — that is my goal. This industry has been good to me, and I intend on reciprocating everything it’s done for me.”

Fulton said his students typically leave the program with at least one or two certifications.

“I’ve had several gentlemen in their 50s who are here to better themselves after going through a change of career, but the general consensus of our students is between the ages of 18 and 25, and they are looking to build a career,” Fulton said. “I have students who walk away with two or three certifications — and I’m not just handing them out — that’s something I can really take a lot of pride in.”

“I do an interview process with these students, and there are two quotes that I use for this class,” he added. “One of them is, ‘Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard,’ because if Michael Jordan didn’t work hard, Scottie Pippen would have been the man. My other one is, ‘This shop is where excuses come to die and skills come to life.’ I’ve said that since I started here, because a student can’t come in here and say, ‘Well, I’ve never done this before,’ because most of the other students haven’t either.”

More information about the welding program at Fred Eberle can be found on the school’s website.

“One thing I will say is we have a great director here — she’s fantastic with us in this program,” Fulton said of FETC director Rebecca Bowers-Call. “She is extremely supportive of us, and she really helps us out as far as allowing me to take students out into the industry. The company I work for is also great with this program; they supply us with material drawings, and we actually get to build real-world things. We have a great program here, and it’s getting better.”

News Feed