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Training & Education

Beyond Oklahoma

By Nick Wright

How Tulsa Welding School has grown to be the largest welding school in the country

February 2016 - Among the trade schools that are a household name in metal fabricating is Tulsa Welding School (TWS). However, the name implies there is only one location. Yes, the school has an established presence in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where it was founded in 1949, but graduates might tell you they’ve learned their trade at the other campuses: Tulsa Welding School in Jacksonville and Tulsa Welding School & Technology Center (TWSTC) in Houston opened in 2001 and 2014, respectively.

Generally, the students at TWS are beginners who are primarily interested in welding. All three campuses offer welding and pipefitting training. In response to local demands for skilled professionals, the Jacksonville campus offers additional specialty training for shipfitting and metal fabrication.

As many vocational schools do, TWS keeps its ear to the ground by partnering with employers, associations and educators to enhance curriculum that reflect the welding industry’s needs. TWS has a partnership with the American Welding Society (AWS) where all students are signed up as members so they can have access to the organization’s many resources. They also partner with Lincoln Electric for welding equipment in the lab areas.

Based on 2014 data from a government managed system that tracks college and vocational trade school enrollment nationwide, TWS is the largest welding school in the country. TWS has the largest total combined enrollment of students for all post-secondary schools in the U.S. as it relates specifically to welding training. Houston data wasn’t available in this sample, but Tulsa and Jacksonville together enrolled about 2,000 students. Considering that TWSTC in Houston has added over 1,100 students to its roster since it opened, it seems TWS will currently maintain this title.

When it comes to what the school offers in terms of equipment, the high enrollment numbers are put into context. TWS campuses combined offer over 140,000 square feet of training facilities with 650 welding booths and room for expansion in some areas. Additionally, grinding stations, cutting stations, threaders and other necessary equipment are readily available for comprehensive welding, pipefitting, shipfitting, and metal fabrication (Jacksonville campus only) training to prepare students for entry-level welding and welding related careers. Students are also equipped with welding hoods, personal hand tools and safety equipment that they will keep when they graduate.

Social media is a necessity nowadays. Highlighting the work of current and past students is an effective way to grab what’s becoming an increasingly Millennial talent pool for welding. To that end, TWS is active on social media especially on Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus. The school is looking to increase its presence on Instagram, a platform where innumerable welders snap their welds and show them off to others. As of the end of 2015, TWS’ three schools have a combined 77,000 fans on Facebook. 

TWS made the national media in 2013 when it announced a scholarship program with Mike Rowe, known as the host of Discovery’s “Dirty Jobs” and a vocal advocate for U.S. manufacturing and skilled trades. Initially, that program spread $800,000 between TWS’ then-two campuses. Several students benefitted from these scholarships to train as welders.

For a welding program that a student could complete in as little as seven months, TWS presents a fast-track to an industry that’s hungry for help. The quality of the curriculum, training, and partnerships is why TWS is the choice for many to complete their welder schooling. FFJ

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