When three high school students showed up with helmets and gloves to apply for a welding position, the supervisor looked at them suspiciously. He didn’t inquire about their age, just set them up to take a welding test.
“Their eyebrows raised. They realized we knew how to weld,” Jose Hernandez said with a smile.
Then they filled out the job application and had to fess up that they weren’t 18 yet.
“It was a little disappointing. $17 per hour with time and a half plus full benefits. They told us to come back the moment we turn 18,” the three said.
But Jose Hernandez, a senior from Southeast High School; Cesar Escobar, a senior from Santa Fe South High School; and Manuel Olibas, also a senior at Southeast; had a plan for making money that summer. Manuel saved and borrowed money from his brother to buy a welding machine, posted an ad on Facebook and the same day, landed a welding job on a friend’s carport. Word of mouth led to more jobs and before long, the three were busy working all summer.
“Working during the school year is tough, since we’re all high school athletes that play baseball and football, but we definitely have a plan after graduation,” they said.
Cesar said he always had an interest in welding and that was sparked when the Metro Tech High School Recruitment Team came to his high school and presented program options. He credits his teacher, Mr. Rogers, for his success as a welder.
“He goes into great detail and allows us lots of time for hands-on welding. He stays with us to answer questions, and he knows his stuff. He’s straight forward and doesn’t sugar coat. I like that,” Manuel said.
Manuel, Cesar and Jose took first place as a team in the SkillsUSA regional welding competition last year, and this year they plan to go even farther.