Welding Technology Joins Students Professional Skills and Personal Success
Welding can be many things to many people. It can be the ticket to being one’s own boss, it can be a weekend hobby. It can be the entryway into rewarding careers with automobile shops or airline manufacturers, or the beginning to a professional career as a sculptor. Or, as was the case for Chris Jony, it can be your cash cow.
Jony entered the welding program at Gwinnett Technical College about four years ago as a requirement of his job at the post office, where he works as a mechanic on machines that process mail. In his position he does a good bit of fabrication on parts and needed the extra skills, so the post office sent him for the training.
But he came back to the program at Gwinnett Tech to pursue a hobby that would provide self-gratification.
Jony’s end result of going through the welding program was much more than meeting career requirements … it sparked the pursuit of a hobby that would provide self-gratification.
His goal: build a motorcycle. And not just any kind of bike – a handmade chopper made from the ground up. “It’s not a Harley, but the engine is designed after a Harley,” Jony said.
"I've always had motorcycles and I wanted to build one myself from nothing - to make sure of its integrity and make sure that it would be good,” Jony said. Building motorcycles is now his “sideline” because it’s something he “enjoys doing.”
His mastery of the skills he learned while enrolled at Gwinnett Tech led him to produce a motorcycle that not only made him proud, but also made him money. While he planned to keep the bike for his own personal use, he ended up selling the vehicle for an offer he couldn’t refuse. “I built it for me, but if someone wants it, then OK,” Jony said. He sold his first homemade project for $22,000. Jony’s plan now is to build two more motorcycles to sell. He is currently building his second handmade motorcycle. His theory is that if he builds – and sells - three, he will have more-than paid for his own motorcycle.
The welding program at Gwinnett Tech can be completed in one year as a diploma program or in just a few quarters as a certificate program. There’s also a nighttime diploma program that is typically completed in two years. Jony was enrolled in the diploma program, which Georgia’s HOPE scholarship program helped fund for him.
“There’s a wide variety of jobs [in welding],” said Garey Bish, program director, welding and joining technology, at Gwinnett Tech. “We have students welding handrails for a company at $30 an hour. We have others that build overhead doors, while still others are doing it [welding] for a hobby or art,” Bish said. “Basically, we have students that do all kinds of things.”