Guest speakers are a regular part of the curriculum at Northeast Technology Center’s Pryor Campus, but it’s rare for the visiting expert to also serve as a board member for the district. Such was the case in the welding program on the Friday before students left for Winter Break.
Billy Hendrickson works as a pipeline inspector on various jobs throughout the United States, and he also serves on the Board of Education at Northeast Technology Center. He sits on the advisory council for the welding and metal fabrication program at the NTC Pryor Campus, and during his recent visit to the classroom, he shared a great deal of trade information with the students.
“Most people don't realize the pressure in this business,” Hendrickson said. “In pipeline work a welder is tested on every single weld, and more than two repairs is an automatic cut out, which is a bad deal.”
Hendrickson gave the students an idea of what to expect when working on a pipeline job, whether as a welder, a welder’s helper, an inspector or an x-ray technician.
“One of the reasons we fail welders during the test portion of a job is because they won't pass the next stage - the RT, or x-ray,” said Hendrickson. “That will come back worse on them, and on the inspector too.”
By sharing stories of his job experiences working as an inspector, Hendrickson painted the students a picture of the working conditions on pipeline jobs. As with any outdoor job, welders must endure extreme temperatures and less-than-perfect weather conditions that make their jobs even more challenging.
“The welding booth is the foundation of muscle memory. Once you back out of the booth, it's a whole new ball game,” said NTC Welding Instructor Craig Cooper. “Practice in a controlled environment is nice, but in the real world your weld has to pass when you’re shivering in minus 20 degree weather laying on your back on a mud board.”
The students peppered Hendrickson with questions throughout his presentation, and many stayed afterward to seek career advice.
“It was good information,” said Michael Gilbert, a student from Claremore. “He covered a lot of stuff we haven't heard before, and with him traveling and experiencing a different side of the trade, he had a different perspective than Mr. Gaskins and Mr. Cooper.”
Hendrickson provided handouts, shared some practical dos and don’t’s for welders of all skill levels, stressed the importance of networking within the field and concluded by challenging the students to always put forth their best effort.
“Your reputation is on the line with every weld,” said Hendrickson. “The compensation is good, but it’s a tough business where you earn every dollar.”