March 2010- When it comes to welding education and training, new technology and techniques are important. However, knowing how to handle various materials and perform specific types of welds means little if the welder doesn't have a fundamentally strong work ethic.
At the John Lopez Welding School, Bakersfield, Calif., work ethic is paramount. Founded in 2006 by John Lopez, its philosophy is simple: Hard work pays off. Just as employers expect their workers to be prompt and put in a full day's work, the same is expected of John Lopez's students throughout their coursework. In other words, don't be late and don't expect extra breaks.
"I cover what it takes to make a living in the welding business," says Lopez. "I'm not going to teach you how to do trigonometry or or try to reinvent something. I'm going to teach you how to make a living because that's what I do."
Lopez started his first welding job in 1973 and has learned the ins and outs of the trade, not only in terms of welding but also in terms of dedication, consistency and dependability as an employee. Because of this, he's designed his school to instill a solid work ethic in students through rigorous coursework and expert guidance. Tardiness isn't tolerated, and neither is laziness.
"It's to help the trade and help build our trade back because we're a dying breed," says Lopez. "The guys that believe in working hard for their money, we're almost gone. I see the people coming in behind me, and they could care less. I want to keep it going. I believe in working for a living and having an honest day's work for the money."
Getting with the program
The John Lopez Welding School focuses on the fundamentals of welding and fabrication, and its training program can be completed in 420 hours--roughly 11 weeks. The program includes lectures, exams, booth instruction and practice. Courses include plate welding, pipe welding and TIG/MIG, and classes are available for students with limited English-speaking skills. Class size is usually 20 students or fewer per session.
Upon graduation, the school also offers job placement services with local and out-of-town contractors.
Overall, Lopez has tailored his school to provide each student willing to put in the work with a proper welding education. Whereas collegiate programs might provide a one-education-fits-all experience, the John Lopez Welding School recognizes the abilities of its students are going to vary, as is the pace at which they learn.
"Some schools are set on what they have to do," says Lopez. "They build a curriculum, and that's what they go by. The people who come here, if one guy learns faster than the other guy, guess what happens? The guy that learns faster, he gets more in less time. In some schools, that doesn't happen. You have to go by page, and until you finish that page, you can't move forward. I take each guy and pull out what he does the best. If he doesn't make a good stainless welder, then I'll make him a better carbon welder. If he can't read or write, I have a job for him too. That's why they want to come here because I give them exactly what they need. I don't give them what they don't need; I give them what it takes to make a living and support their family." MM