Southwest Tennessee Community College Reopens Welding Program to Certified Success

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Taylor Tagg

January 25, 2017 - Maquayle Britt, 27, was looking for a new start when he entered the Southwest Tennessee Welding Program in September 2016.

“I needed a new beginning and a solid foundation to build a career and life on and I think I found it,” Britt said. Britt, along with thirteen other men from different walks of life signed up for the workforce development welding class with little expectation of what they could learn and achieve.

They got a lot more than they bargained for.

The participants, which included a Municipal Court judge and retired Navy submarine commander, formed a close bond and developed an unusual “all in” team environment that encouraged one another to achieve success by earning industry recognized welding certifications.

A few certified welder badges would have been great, but the achievement kept on going.

At the end of the three-month class, the group had collectively earned 105 American Welding Society (AWS) certifications.

Other students and faculty who heard about the achievement were stunned at the number, but not this group. Britt explains, “The teamwork was excellent. This environment was one where we really wanted success for everyone. Nobody got left behind.”

Ray Wilson, Southwest Welding Lab Assistant was in awe of the accomplishment as well, “This class just stayed with it. They were interested in learning the principles of welding and applying their knowledge. This was a special group.” The revitalization of Southwest’s Welding program is part of a Department of Labor grant designed to improve the technical skills gap throughout the Memphis area. It is being administered by the Greater Memphis Alliance for a Competitive Workforce (GMACW).

The multi-million dollar grant also includes other technical programs at Tennessee College of Applied Technology at Memphis (TCAT), William R Moore College of Technology, and Arkansas State University - Mid South in West Memphis. Charles Cothran, another student who earned nine certifications during the class, was hired on the spot as a welder at Edwards Steel Solutions after completing the program. He will now have the chance to travel the Southeast United States and put his experience to use.

“This is a great long term opportunity for me,” Cothran said.

Many of the welding students attribute their quick learning habits to the quality of instruction from welding expert Danny Spencer.

Spencer, who is a government consultant and previously taught the Southwest welding program for several years likes the team environment, “the group approach insures that everybody is successful. This class pushed themselves far beyond where we thought they could go and well beyond what they thought they could achieve. It was really one of the most enjoyable classes I have ever been a part of.”

It seems like a safe bet that the 105 AWS Welding certifications will stay in the record books.

Spencer was pretty confident, “I’m not sure we will ever see that number approached again.” As for class graduate Britt, he is interviewing with companies and pursuing the chance to start his new career. “I have laid a great foundation that I will be able to build on and hopefully stay in this industry for the long term. I’m excited about all the possibilities.”

To inquire more about Southwest’s welding program, visit the program website