Local welders compete in weld off

Halen Doughty

A weld-off was held at Fairbanks Inspection Testing in St. James where competitors went head to head to see who has the skills to be the best in the business. Welding inspectors from Shell Motiva, Exxon Mobil, and Dow Chemical were on hand to judge the competition, and awards were handed out to those who took the top three spots in each category.

The competition was formed through a partnership with industry leaders and the American Welding Society. Judges observed safety during the welding competition and scored competitors in a variety of metrics including tool safety and property use of personal protective equipment. Workmanship, housekeeping, proficiency, and accuracy were other key areas for judges.

Students from local technical programs including River Parishes Community College and the dual enrollment program at St. Amant High School competed in the weld off. The welds were tested to make sure they are up to code, and then they were judged by an x-ray to determine which among them was the best.

George Fairbanks of FIT hosted the first annual event, which he hopes will continue to grow over the years. He said overall there was tremendous sponsorship from industry that supplied door prizes and gifts for the winners of the competition.

Fairbanks said the reason for starting this weld off is simple, it's all for the students. He said it gives them a chance to show off their skills to leaders within the industry, as well as giving them an opportunity to network within their field.

"They now have somebody that they know in industry and can go bring questions to them," said Fairbanks.

Jeremy Whittemore is the welding instructor at RPCC. Six of his students competed in the weld off with three of them landing in the top spots. He hopes his students will return to their classes with a new sense of excitement for the industry and the skills they are learning at RPCC.

Whittemore said his students' performance in the weld off is a sign of just how much they are learning at the technical college. He hopes this sends a message to other students who are getting ready to further their education that RPCC is home to some of the best.

"Hopefully it will show everybody that we are becoming a force," said Whittemore.

Whittemore said their program is all about getting students ready for the workforce. He said competitions like these give them a chance to familiarize themselves with the people in industry and put their skills to the test. It's safe to say that all the RPCC students present passed that test with flying colors.

"Job ready, that's what we're aiming for," said Whittemore. "We're trying to give them the best practical working knowledge that we possibly can, where they can go out and be a positive influence on the job site and not be a hinderence."

Mark Anderson took first place in the plate test, with Lorenzo Casso coming in second and Samuel Cox rounding out the top three. In the pipe welding competition, Jace Chiquelin came in first and Joseph Breland took second.

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