A day of welding on TCC’s Portsmouth Campus turned into a merit badge for several Boy Scouts.

Welding is among 131 merit badges Boy Scouts can work toward and it is one of the newest, introduced in February 2012. Tidewater Community College Professor Walter Duke and instructor Jim Stephenson spent a Saturday introducing Scouts from Hampton Roads and northeastern North Carolina to welding first with a lesson on safety followed by hands-on instruction in the welding lab.

Boy Scout Jack Almeter learns from Professor Walter Duke
Boy Scout Jack Almeter learns from Professor
Walter Duke

“This is a win-win situation for us,” Duke said. “They can get some instruction to something they’re not ordinarily exposed to. It shows our potential students our facilities and our teaching methods. Whether they want to learn to fix their motor bikes or monster trucks or make a living in the field, there’s no limit if you like fabrication.”

“These are their future students,” said Joe Colby, leader of Troop 256.

TCC students who want to pursue a career in welding have the option of completing several tracks of study. The most intensive is a 33-credit certificate in welding that includes classes in English and math in addition to the hands-on training the program offers.

Another alternative is the 26-credit career studies certificate focusing solely on the field with classes that range from Oxyfuel Welding and Cutting to Pipe and Tube Welding. A 19-credit certificate prepares students for entry-level position as maritime welders.

The welding badge was five years in the making and highlights a field that continues to thrive even with a downturn in the economy. Welding is a high-demand field with versatility in career paths, as welders can find employment in inspection, education, engineering, robotics, sales and project management.

“It’s not a glamorous occupation, but it will sustain you,” Duke said.

Oscar Smith High School student Jack Almeter recognized the value of being patient and steady while welding. “It’s an art, and it really is cool to work with your hands,” he said. “I didn’t realize how hard it would be.”