If you google “Tony Welding” you’ll find a link to a cache of videos posted online and the opportunity to “attend” welding classes taught by Tony Marsden, a welding instructor at the Simi Valley Career Institute. Funded by the state of California, the Institute’s welding program is free, however, there is usually a waiting list.
An instructor for over 25 years, Tony has always used videos to supplement his instructions. “It did not occur to me to put them on google video until recently,” he says. There are 54 videos in total, covering everything from equipment and accessories, metal identification, welding symbols, tube bending, fabrication, and structural codes in the areas of Arc Welding, MIG, TIG and Oxy-Acetylene. These videos offer a way for students who can’t get into the program either by limits of space or geography, to learn from an instructor with over 40 years of welding experience and certifications in SMAW, FCAW, GMAW and GTAW.
The son of a general contractor, Tony was introduced to the construction industry and welding at an early age. Over the years he was told many times he would make a great teacher. When he was offered a position to teach part time, he accepted and part time soon led to full time. “I have always enjoyed sharing information,” he says.
Working at the largest and most comprehensive adult school in Ventura County, California has allowed Tony to share a lot of welding information. And place over 3000 students in good jobs over the last 25 years.
The school operates an open enrollment, start anytime program which Tony says is a big advantage over the traditional semester system. “I never have a large number of students employable at one time—there is no June graduation,” he says. In other words, Tony always has students looking for work. Indicative of the current and projected welder shortage Tony adds, “The last 15 years the requests for students has outnumbered the number of students ready to be employed.” He places students on a weekly basis, totaling well over 100 employment placements each year.
“When I first started teaching, I spent a lot of time visiting employers…. Introducing myself and looking for employment opportunities for my students.” Tony has placed students in the construction industry, aerospace, manufacturing, aircraft, sheet metal, off road, motorcycle, fabrication, oil industry and even the movie studios.
The number of students enrolled in the program at any given time—day and evening—totals 100 to 150 students both full time and part time. The level of students attending the program varies. For beginning students, Tony says he can get them employed in four to six months. “I cannot teach experience, so the faster they get out there the better.
“Personally, I have never had trouble placing students, both beginning and advanced (skilled welders with experience). Sometimes the skilled welders need additional training. For example learning to weld Titanium and Inconel or passing an additional certification.”
One student, a welder in his 40s, came to the program after being laid off from Bechtel. He was devastated. He had a letter in his hand stating that if he could pass a pressure vessel pipe certification in one month they would hire him back. According to Tony, thirty days later the student took the test and passed. “The first thing he did was stop by to tell me. As he walked in, he was four feet off the ground. Me, I was two feet off the ground!”
Gene Lawson, current President of the American Welding Society, reports that by 2010 an additional 200,000 welders will be needed. With only 25,000 students a year learning welding there will be a shortage. Tony notes that current employment demand is regional. “Some areas of the country are booming and some are not. The demand is strong in the oil industry, construction, and green industries, like windmills.”
Although not directly involved with education at the K through 12 system, Tony has some thoughts on vocational training. For a program like welding, the equipment is expensive and enrollment must be limited due to space and safety concerns, resulting in lower average daily attendance, which equates to lower return on the investment.
Tony believes that because most school administrators and counselors themselves followed an academic path they are not familiar with other paths to success. “Why are vocational training classes considered the dumping ground for underachieving students?” he asks. “It’s ironic that a counselor will then pay that underachiever a $100 an hour to fix their car.”
Tony says that if the State of California Department of Education recognized the need for vocational education and FUNDED it, there would be vocational training at the High School level. “As it is, they leave it up to me,” he says.
Tony retired in 2007, although he still teaches a Saturday class. To see Tony’s Welding videos, visit his website at www.tonywelding.com.