A year after graduating from a welding school in Ohio, a former teacher is helping welders and other welders navigate the welding industry.
Photographer David L. Johnson says he was inspired to start the nonprofit school in the wake of the deaths of his fellow welders.
“The welding community is in a very dark place,” Johnson says.
“It’s just a very difficult time right now.
You’ve got the government, the police, the industry trying to sort it out.”
Johnson and his team of teachers, as well as students and the local community, have set up a welding education center in downtown Akron, Ohio, which Johnson hopes will be the first welding school for more than 100 years.
They’ve recruited other weldery students from across the state and the U.S. to join the effort.
The goal is to offer welding training and certification to students of all ages, regardless of welding experience.
They also want to provide training for other career paths, like carpentry and plumbing, which can help weld technicians transition into jobs in the construction industry.
“We’re building a school that’s going to teach the welding skills to the next generation,” Johnson tells The Wall St. Journal.
“I want to be a part of this movement.”
Johnson, a 36-year-old father of two from Cleveland, says the welding school is the first for which he’s been involved.
“My wife and I, we were both welders,” he says.
We had a couple years left in school, and my wife was an electrician.
I took her welding classes and got her certification.
We decided that we wanted to go to welding school to learn about welding.
And so we came up with this idea of an apprenticeship.
We wanted to be able to help them get certified in the welding business and then we could do that through welding school.
It was a good way to keep my family afloat.
But it also created a lot of excitement because we knew we were going to be building something.
“There’s so many opportunities for people to get welding, and welding is so much more than just welding,” he adds.
Johnson has been working in the craft since he was a child.
“If I could’ve been at home with my family and gone to work every day, I’d be pretty good,” he laughs.
But after the death of his father, Johnson said he decided to try welding at the age of 17, and has since worked at welders from Akron, Toledo, Ohio and Columbus.
He says he’s worked at welding schools in New York, Washington and other states.
He’s also started a welding company with his wife, which has already created a career path for many welders in the state.
Johnson is also hoping that his school can provide training to welders who want to start their own companies, including some who’ve already been doing so for years.
He wants to work with the local welding community to make welding a viable career for them.
“That’s something that the community needs to hear, that we need to help these welders get into the industry and make their dreams come true,” he tells The Journal.
He and his family plan to continue helping welding students and others in Akron as they begin welding jobs.