Two years ago, I wrote an article for thefabricator.com about Brennan Palmiter, a young race car driver and welder (then 16) who had teamed up with the Fabricators & Manufacturers Association (FMA) Foundation and Practical Welding Today® magazine to introduce young people to manufacturing careers.
A few things have changed since the article was written. The FMA Foundation now is known as Nuts, Bolts, & Thingamajigs®, The Foundation of the Fabricators & Manufacturers Association, Intl., and Palmiter is racing less, but his skill and interest in welding are taking him to the next level in his life.
It’s easy to understand how a young male, or female, might be drawn to racing. NASCAR reportedly is the biggest spectator sport in the world. But welding? What sparked Palmiter’s interest in welding, and how did that interest, combined with his mission to spread the word about welding careers, help him land a job with Fronius USA?
As noted in the article on thefabricator.com, Palmiter began welding “by accident.” He had just begun driving cars on asphalt. He said, "[I was] used to that loose feeling from a dirt car, and when the car got really loose, I thought I'd try to drive it like my dirt car. So I gunned the throttle, turned right on a left-hand turn, and shortly found out that didn't work. I ended up driving the car straight into the wall, nose first.
"It was incredible; it happened so fast that I didn't have time to let go of the throttle. It was a very bad rookie mistake. The frame was bent all over—bent in ways you could never imagine steel bending by itself. [My dad and I] didn't have the money to buy a new frame. It was up to me to find some way to fix the car.
"I have an old friend, Jeremy Boddie, who knows a lot about welding. He worked at a shop that had a lift and employed several welders. When he got off work, he let us in, and we worked on the car most of the night.
"[Boddie] had a piece of metal that was ready to be welded in place. He asked me if I had ever welded before, and I told him I hadn't, so he welded it in place and I helped here and there. But after the car was finished, I got to play around with the welding machine! At 10 years old, that was like doing college geometry!
"Buddy Knock, another welder at the shop, decided to give me a short welding lesson. I was really bad at first. Buddy gave me a ton of tips on torch angles and different ways to move the puddle down the metal. It took a lot of practice, but now I think I'm pretty good at it. I've been practicing for about six years now (make that eight), and I still look at a weld and say, 'I think I can do it better next time.' No matter how good the weld, I always end up saying, 'I could have made it look a little bit better if I had done this or that.'"
Palmiter has spent the past couple of years visiting schools and sharing his love for racing and welding with students. His infectious enthusiasm has been an inspiration to those of us who champion metal manufacturing and beat the looming skilled labor shortage drum.
Cut to 2010. Palmiter began looking for new sponsors to help finance his racing and to develop a new program for promoting manufacturing careers to young people. One of the companies willing to help was Fronius USA. When Palmiter was unable to put the school program together, Fronius began talking to him about a job opportunity. Now he's on the fast track to a welding-related career.
In a recent e-mail to his fans, Palmiter wrote, "After a two-month training program in Michigan, I will be moving to Chattanooga, Tenn., to work in Fronius USA's southeastern sales office. I will be traveling the southeast to visit customers and prospective customers to help them develop welding processes in their manufacturing facilities. I will also be working tradeshows throughout the United States, and may even get the opportunity to travel to Europe, as Fronius has offices all throughout the world and is based in Austria.
"Thank you for supporting and encouraging me all through the years. It's been a blast. I'll probably see some of you at tradeshows and maybe even get to stop by your company one day. To my racing fans, let me say that I will be back racing again as soon as I can. You can count on that. If you are ever in Chattanooga on a Saturday night, check out the local track. You just might catch me there!"
Congratulations, Brennan! And congratulations, Fronius. You've landed a winner—one of the brightest, most enthusiastic, articulate, and dynamic employees you'll ever see.
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