After placing second in the nation in June at the Skills USA competition and third in October at the U.S. Open Weld Trials, 21-year-old Jeremiah Garcia of Helper is spending the next five months preparing to compete for a $40,000 scholarship and trip to Japan.
He recently returned from a competition in Atlanta, Ga., where he competed against five other college welders. After 24 hours of welding various projects in four days, Garcia was awarded the bronze medal and an opportunity to compete for the scholarship and international competition in June 2007.
Garcia, who graduated in 2006 with an applied technology degree in welding from the College of Eastern Utah, did not transfer to a four-year college this year and opted to spend every day working on perfecting four types of welds for the competition. He works on a shield metal arc weld (SMAW), gas metal arc weld (GMAW), flex core arc weld (FCAW) and a gas tungsten arc weld (GTAW).
His usual week includes welding eight hours a day in the CEU welding lab.
"One day I got to school at 10 a.m. and welded until 1 a.m. trying to perfect individual welds," Garcia said.
His easiest welds are the GMA welds because he is able to bead better with them. His hardest welds are the 7018 open root.
"It's difficult to stay consistent with this weld."
When it comes to competition, Garcia is a little nervous at first and only likes to drink a power drink before he starts to weld. His mother always wishes him good luck at his competitions, while his father's strategy is for the younger Garcia to focus on what he is doing, relax and concentrate on what weld goes where.
His instructors cannot find enough good words to say about Garcia.
"He's the consummate student," says welding instructor Lon Youngberg. "He's one of the most dedicated students I have ever had. He'll spend 30 to 40 hours a week just practicing his welds. He has great natural ability, talent, effort, perseverance and attitude."
Mike Tryon, head of the welding department, adds, "He [Garcia] practices some the most difficult welds. He can do an open root weld and only a handful of welders can do that weld well. He is really a talented individual."
As a student last spring semester, Garcia helped Youngberg, teach a large class of beginning welding students. "There's a lot of one-on-one instruction in this program and he [Youngberg] needed help."
Garcia's daily routine consists of welding different projects that he sends to the judges each month. His work is compared to two other students who are also in the competition.
The competition has different projects a contestant must complete and mail, no matter how much they weigh, to the judges each month. The students are awarded points for each type of weld they submit.
Two welders will be selected in the spring and travel to Kansas City, Mo., for the final weld-off challenge and the right to represent the United States in the 39th International World Skills Competition in Shizuoka, Japan.
Even though his father Raymond is a welder, the younger Garcia did not start welding until he was a senior at Carbon High School. "When I was a little, I picked up my dad's welding helmet in his garage and tried to look through it. When I couldn't see through the glass, I asked my dad how to wear it. He said that when I got older, he would show me how to use it. I guess that's my first indication that I wanted to be a welder."
He thinks he's a better welder than his father because he's more dedicated to practicing and his dad does not weld every day like he does. He knows this because he and his father took a welding certification class together recently.
He spent his senior year taking classes from Tryon and Youngberg and spent the past two years at the college working on his associate's degree in applied science. He plans to attend Weber State University next fall where he hopes to complete the welding engineering technology bachelor's of science program.