USU Eastern student Chad Halman welds a piece of aluminum with the use of a Tig welding machine on Tuesday morning at the welding shop in the McDonald Career Center. The welding work takes time and determination to come away with a flawless finished product.
Mike Tryon and Lon Youngberg stand next to the display case with all of the medals and examples of student work from competitions.
Mike Tryon and Lon Youngberg want their students to be the best.
To be the best at anything requires endless hours of training, learning from mistakes and having a certain determination that helps a person get through the good and bad times along the way. These traits can be used in many different areas of life including a person's pursuit of a passion.
With welding, Tryon and Youngberg, welding instructors from USU Eastern, expect nothing but hard work from a group of students.
For students in the USU Eastern welding program, it's not just about learning a trade.Instead it's about taking a trade like welding and making a life out of it, using whatever tools in the shop are needed to make a project as flawless as possible.
"We want students to be good at what they do," said Tryon, a veteran USU Eastern welding educator for the last 19 years.
Not only is the trade of welding a job, it's something that can provide a lifetime full of appreciation after a project, no matter how big or small, is completed.
"Building things with steel can last for a lifetime," Tryon said. "You can build something that can last a lifetime and something that won't just fall apart."
When Tryon first heard about the SkillsUSA competition from a student about 15 years ago, it was an intriguing idea. SkillsUSA has a showcase for many career and technical students, including welders, that begins on the local level and carries on through national and international competitions. The competitions allow for students to be rewarded for their excellence, to involve industry in directly evaluating student performance and to keep training relevant to employers' needs, according to the SkillsUSA website.
While the first few competitions gave Tryon and the students an opportunity to understand the level of competition on a state and national level, soon the awards from state competitions began to pile up. First place finishes started to become a regular occurrence at the state level as well as top finishes at nationals. At national competitions, Tryon said other schools know they are in for a challenge when they see USU Eastern next to the name of a competing welder.
"We do this to win, not just for the experience of making it that far," Youngberg said. "It's a lot of extra work but it can definitely pay off in the end for students."
Following in the footsteps of students before him, Remington Grace is hoping that he will be the next in a long line of successful welders from USU Eastern who competed at SkillsUSA events. Grace, a freshman from Ferron, the allure of working hard and having it pay off by winning a competition is what helps drive students including him.
Over on the wall of the classroom, a list of names that have won state and placed high in national competitions helps to remind students that the long hours spent working in the shop paid off.
"I just have to weld a lot," Grace said of preparing for the competition. "It takes a lot of patience and you can't get in a hurry while doing this."
With classes in the department lasting one hour each, the use of time becomes critical in preparing for the competition.
"There is little room to waste time in class as every minute counts," said Tryon. Many times students like Grace will have to come the shop early in the morning before classes start or work late into the night improving their skills. If a student is competing, Tryon said he will give them a key to the shop and he expects them to use it to their advantage.
"We'll give those students a key to the shop and if we do, we expect them to be here working day after day," he explained. Tryon estimates that the top welders from USU Eastern who have gone onto national competitions spent between 8 to 10 hours a day in the shop practicing.
"We train the students to win," Tryon said.
The success of the program can be attributed to the low cost of tuition for students, two teachers who have a long background in the profession of welding and the opportunity to walk away after two years with a degree in welding. Tryon said the department has developed a reputation for not only training great welders who compete well in competitions, but also those who complete the program and are able to help fill jobs all around the state that require a welding background.
"Students that work really hard and learn everything the program teaches are usually able to find jobs pretty quickly," Tryon said noting that the department doesn't need to recruit students to study in the department.
Students are taught to be ready to get out into the work environment while taking their classes. By the time they are done with their two years in the department, they should be fully prepared for whatever they want to do, Tryon said.
Marty Jensen, a local sales representative for Airgas, said the expertise of teachers like Tryon and Youngberg are a big reason why many companies looking for welders always keep an eye out for USU Eastern students.
"This is without question the best program in the state for welding," Jensen said. "It's a great place for a student to be able to get a degree in welding."Chad Halman, a freshman from Neola, heard that the USU Eastern welding program was one of the best in the western United States. When looking for a school to study welding, Eastern fit everything he was looking for.
"They (Tryon and Youngberg) always give us plenty of stuff to work on," he said. "There's always something to do."
Halman said he enjoys being able to make something from his welding work.
"I'll get an idea, draw out a plan and then I'll make it," he explained. His work at welding has made him more prone to seeing mistakes with things, including a fence near his house that had uneven poles."I can see a problem as small as that and be able to fix it now," he said. "They (Tryon and Youngberg) are very vigilant and they make us know what's going on."
Tryon and Youngberg both wanted to find a way to display the examples of outstanding welding projects by students who have competed at competitions on a state and national level. They searched for display cases but at cost of over $1,500 and with little money to spend, they immediately shot that possibility down.So if they couldn't go out and buy a professionally made display case, what could they do?
Their answer: Do as all welders in a similar situation would do. Put together a plan and build it from scratch.
USU Eastern student Jordi Pincock worked closely with Tryon and Youngberg, coming up with a plan for the display and later fabricating the display from aluminum.
"We just wanted to build a display to show the amount of hard work that students put into a project, especially when they compete at a state, national and international level," Tryon said.
The pieces of welded work finally have a permanent place to be displayed now, Tryon said. Inside the display case are a number of medals, pictures, newspaper and magazine articles and welded projects that were award winners at past competitions. Many of the examples of work not in the display case are currently stacked along the top of the cabinets in the Tryon and Youngberg's classroom that students currently studying have easy access to look over and see what went into the steel creation.
While the display case is a good start, both Tryon and Youngberg want to add more awards and plaques to honor the hard work and commitment that went into receiving those awards.
"The expectations of the department are great and extremely hard at the same time. Everything that goes into this always goes back to hard work," Youngberg said. "As teachers we love the fact we are able give back by sharing a knowledge of welding to students who want to learn the trade."
"It's a tough lifestyle," said Tryon of welding. "But it's the career I chose and I love it."