Updated: Aug 16, 2022
written by Tiffany Rae Johnson
Derek Solis, age 22, entered the Gladiator Welding Program to test the waters. Taking it upon himself, went straight into Fresno City College following high school. Although, “nothing really piqued” his interest.
“I always wanted to learn a trade.” Surrounded by electricians in his social circle, working at the local mall, Fashion Fair, has started to get old. Derek wants more. A family friend completed Gladiator Welding’s first cohort. The skills they learned at the program caught Derek’s attention. Later on, found himself contemplating, “You know what, welding looks cool.”
The “direction” of the program has kept Derek coming. He compares his path at Gladiator Welding to his friends taking the welding courses at local community colleges, “I like the accelerated learning experience, bare bones, we’re welding.” He addresses the importance of education, “Book smarts are important too, those books are the first teacher.” The difference between his experiences in college and Gladiator Welding is preference in atmosphere. The instructors’ agenda for Gladiator Welding paints a futuristic picture for their students. “I see myself in a welding career, for the long-term. Eventually, I’d like to become an instructor.” Derek sees himself passing onto others what Gladiator Welding has introduced to him.
Arc welding is Derek’s preferred upcoming career. “There’s mig, tig, and arc. Arc works with straight electricity with a jumper cable attached at the end to a piece of metal. Very hot, deep penetration, can be very messy. It’s meant to weld vast structures, large piping, and PG&E works with a lot of arc. There is also underwater welding, and in the sky, such as when maintaining bridges.” Derek has acquired a well-rounded taste in welding knowledge. “Arc is the best fit for me, more about strength, rather pretty.”
He advises future students to "have pride in their work". Derek brings to my attention that welding is “much more mental than physical”. Once the mental barrier is broken, “practice, practice, practice, is really all that it is, repetition.” Monday through Thursday, learning new and creative ways to perfect the fundamentals that are taught at the start of the program, becomes the weekly objective. As the program gets closer to the end, Derek realizes it is up to him to decide what he does with the skills he now has. “You can put anything in front of me, give me a couple tries... I’ll know how to weld it, I know what I am looking for.”
About the Author
Tiffany Rae Johnson was born in 1997, in Fresno, California. She has a passion for boxing. Once a competitor, she now enjoys coaching upcoming talent in the Central Valley. She also enjoys traveling and painting. She thrives on spontaneous adventures and creative ways of viewing her surroundings.
She is a graduate of Clovis Community College, where she received her Associate’s Degree in Kinesiology. After a change in career path, she is now a senior at Fresno State University, where she is receiving her B.A. in Mass Communication and Journalism in December 2022. She has experience as an SCCCD Public Relations/Marketing, Fresno State Athletics Strategic Communications/Digital Media, and CMAC TV Community Media intern.