I've been at the PWT desk for a little more than four years, and I've found that one of the best parts of the job is meeting and talking to people who have a contagious energy about the welding industry and what they do.
After about eight months on the job, I received a phone call from a guy named Doug Wilkinson, director of welding/operations at Reinke Mfg. Co. Inc., Deshler, Neb. He called to alert me of an open house at a local high school where a new welding education program had been adopted—a program he and many of his colleagues had a hand in developing. I don't remember every detail of that conversation, but I do remember his enthusiasm. It was palpable, even over the phone.
A few months and a few phone conversations later, he and his program became the subject of an Editor's Corner ("Tis the season to give... of yourself," Nov./Dec. 2007, p. 4).
At the time, at least from my perspective, it was an editorial like any other. What set it apart, however, was the outpouring of response both Wilkinson and I received directly from readers—from you. I didn't expect that, and I can tell you, neither did Wilkinson.
"I lost track, but there were over 1,000 e-mails. I gave up around 800 or 900. People left me voice mail after voice mail. I had inner-city schools calling. Most of them were educators wanting to know more about how to do this," he later told me.
To this day that editorial is still the most commented-on piece I've ever written.
Wilkinson exemplifies one of the best traits of the welding and fabrication community: ingenuity. Welders and fabricators are a collection of individuals who find ways to get things done. You look outside the box for answers. You don't wait for someone else to approach you with a solution. You don't have meetings simply to talk about finding the answers; instead, you get your hands dirty by working your way through the process. You don't give up when roadblocks arise, but instead you push even harder to find the answer.
I think the reason so many of you wrote in about that editorial four years ago was that you could identify with what Wilkinson was trying to accomplish, maybe because you were seeing the same things he was coming through the shop doors. Maybe it's because you had thought about doing something similar within your community but couldn't find the support to get it started. Maybe it's because you take the same pride in the welding industry as Wilkinson and the folks at Reinke Mfg. do.
Fast-forward to today. I'm happy to report the original concept described in the editorial has exploded into multiple schools and educated countless middle school, high school, and adult students. It is still evolving, expanding, and going strong. Check out "A journey of 1,000 welds" for a more in-depth look.
I encourage you to share with me your own stories of perseverance and ingenuity. They make for great articles and are truly the best part of my job.