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In the Hot Seat with Earl Price

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In the Hot Seat with Earl Price

In the Hot Seat – 10 questions with Earl Price, Lead Welding Instructor

Name: Earl Price
Title: Lead Welding Instructor, Arclabs Welding School
Location: Columbia Campus, Columbia, SC

“Welding schools are popping up all over the place, and every Tom, Dick and Harry wants to be an instructor. The first thing I ask a potential hire is ‘Where did you get your experience?’ I don’t want to hear about how long you’ve been an instructor. I want to hear about the real-world experience that you’re bringing to the table for our students.”
-Earl Price, Lead Welding Instructor, Arclabs

1. Welding Experience

• Stick: “I was welding in my grandfather’s shop at 12 or 13 years old. He fabricated heavy equipment trailers. I was Stick welding, so by the time I got to high school, welding was easy for me.”
• Pulsed MIG/Flux-Cored: “After high school, I went into manufacturing production, welding a lot of different parts using pulsed MIG and flux-cored.”
• TIG: “One of the coolest things I learned was TIG welding on platinum for bushings to make glass fibers for the military that were used for computer boards. It will take over 3000 degrees of temperature without melting and burning away.”

2. Metal Diversity

“A highlight of my background is being part of a specialty welding group for pipe jobs, such as the VC Summer nuclear power station. I’ve also worked at petrochemical plants like Exxon Mobile, Chevron Marathon, Valero and Shell where they use a lot of exotic alloys. Metals I have welded include:
– Stainless Steel (200, 300 and 400 series)
– Duplex 2491
– Super Duplex 2596
– Chrome-moly steels (P9, P11 and P22)
– Aluminum (4043, 5356 and 6061)
– Copper
– Molybdenum
– Nickel Alloys (Monel, Inconel and Hastelloy)
– Alloy 20 (“Incoloy 020”)
– Waspaloy (Alloy 685)
– Titanium (high and low grade)
– Platinum
– Carbon steel

3. Carrying Certs

“I was part of a specialty pipe welding group that was called in to make welds that the regular group couldn’t make. We made better money but were required to prove our skills. We had to successfully pass tests on our first try to be considered for employment. Off the top of my head, I have tested to standards that include:
• ASME B31.1 Power Piping
• ASME B31.2 Fuel Gas Piping
• ASME B31.3 Process Piping
• ASME B31.4 Liquid Transportation of Hydrocarbons, LP Gas, Anhydrous Ammonia, and Alcohol
• ASME Section IX
• AWS D1.1 Structural
• AWS D1.2 Aluminum
• AWS D1.3 Sheetmetal
• AWS D1.4 Reinforcing Steel
• AWS D1.5 Bridge welding
• AWS D1.8 Seismic supplement to AWS D1.1
• AWS D1.9 Titanium structural
• AWS D18.1 Hygienic Stainless Steel”

4. Career Highlight

“I worked for some government contractors overseas and was able to get high security clearance. In Kuwait, I worked under the protection of armed guards and unmanned drones for air support. We were doing hot taps working on oil wells that were intentionally blown up and on fire that needed closing off.” [A hot tap attaches s branch connection to a pipe while the system is in service, where workers can then create an opening in the pipe by drilling or cutting.]

5. Can instructor experience be intimidating to newbies?

“Everyone is new. When I started working for Owens Steel, I worked as a helper because I didn’t have the knowledge or the skill to pass the structural welding test. Because of my work ethic, the other welders took me under their wing. These guys weren’t instructors, they were welders. I was new into the industry and knew I wasn’t going to make what everybody else made until I gained experience. The other welders wanted to teach me, so I was fortunate.”

6. Teaching Style

“I’m a hands-on guy. I focus on the positive and critique students in a way that helps them get better. Confidence is 50% of this job, especially when you’re learning it, but I need to know you’re giving it your all. I expect 100% and nothing less. Effort, confidence and success go together. If you go into a weld test thinking you’re going to fail, you’re probably not going to put in 100% effort.”

7. Diversity Benefits Students

“One of the things that sets Arclabs apart is our diverse instructors, and we have eight to 10 of them at this campus. We all have strengths in various industries and our own teaching style. You can take three welders working at the same job, and they’re all going to have a different technique and a different perspective on what works for them. Now put this into perspective for our students. People process information differently. When a student struggles to learn, we can find an instructor who works well with that student. We don’t want a student leaving here missing something that could make or break their success.”

8. Why Do You Care if a Student Succeeds or Not?

My character means a lot to me, so what somebody says about me as an instructor matters. I never want somebody leaving here saying ‘My instructor was Earl Price, and he didn’t work hard enough.’ What that means to a student is that we are both going to work hard toward getting this right. For students with good mechanical skills, we focus on the mentality that they’re going to take into the field. I don’t want them asking if their weld is good enough to pass inspection. I want them asking “How can I make this weld better?”

9. The CWI Difference

“I had 25 years of experience before I became an AWS Certified Welding Inspector (CWI) in 2020. You look at things differently when you can combine an understanding of welding codes and real-world experience, and that’s the perspective I bring to our students and other instructors. I know what the code demands from an inspection side, and I know what you need to do as a welder to a make a code-quality weld.”

10. Student Success

“The real gratification in this job comes when former students stop by to share their success, like show off a new truck. I had a student named Jaylen Johnson who had the desire to learn. He moved through our curriculum probably twice as fast as the average student. He got a lot more than he paid for. The week after he graduated school, he went and took a pipe test. Now he’s a pipe welder running the roads making good money, rather than working a regular 9-to-5 job.”

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