As the students filter into the Adult Welding Lab on Halloween, Welding Instructor & Program Coordinator, Don Tankelsey is sure to check in with every student, whether it is about a costume they wore to class, a change in hair color, or just asking how they are doing. With 36 students in total enrolled in short-term and long-term welding classes, it can get hectic, but Don is here for his students and to make sure they get to where they want to be in their future careers. As he rounds out his second year at the CTC, he says saying goodbye to his graduating classes in December will be tough, as he has mentored them and followed every step of their trajectory. However, he knows they are going on to successful careers. In fact, he mentions during his tenure that every student who has wanted a job following graduation has gotten one, a statistic he is proud of.
Don is an LCCTC graduate, graduating from the welding program at what was then known as the Willow Street Vo-Tech in 1981. That year, he took advantage of the cooperative education program and worked part-time at The Farfield Company in Lancaster, where he continued on for 30 more years. When Don came to Mount Joy in 2021, he brought nearly 40 years of welding experience to share with his students. Don feels his call to the CTC was to give back to his students what he learned from his instructors. Since his arrival, he has worked to improve the program and encouraged it’s growth. This change started with the welding lab, where every piece of equipment is up and running, and continued to the number of students, which has doubled in the past two years and continues to grow. Don also notes that now there are more female students enrolled in each of the welding classes, something that has been rare in a traditionally male-dominated field. He hopes this trend continues and more women seek to enter the trades.
Welding students at the CTC include those brushing up on their skills in short-term programs:
Not all students choose to take both long-term courses. Depending on the student’s goal, they can leave directly from the Welding Technology Welding course or hone their skills in more niche areas like specialty welding, sanitary pipe, structural steel, and more in Advanced Welding. Some students can even spend the end of their course on co-op, which allows them to work and earn wages in their field before finishing the program.
Carrie Cox, who is graduating from the Advanced Welding course in December, liked the program for the independence it allowed her; to learn at her own pace and start working hands-on right away. She decided to move on to the Advanced Welding course because she is looking for a position that requires more skill, and it felt like the natural next step. Don adds that Carrie is a phenomenal welder, and she will be a great asset wherever she chooses to go.
Charlie Frantz came to the CTC knowing he wanted to learn a trade, and the program fit well with his schedule. He has since moved from Basic Welding to Welding Technology and is planning to enroll in the advanced program in January. Charlie credits his interest and success in the program to his instructors. He says the care they put into teaching and mentoring is a great motivator.
Don notes that the students who enroll in the program at the CTC are highly motivated to either level up or start on the path to a new career in welding. If he can’t provide guidance, he can rely on his fellow instructors, Dick Bernhardt, Brian Naylor, and Andrew Huber. Don jokes that just with instructor Dick Bernhardt, they have over 100 years of welding experience. Don also worked with Naylor and Huber at Farfield, and Mr. Huber has field experience in Aerospace, Robotics, and underwater welding. This vast expanse of expertise gives students an idea of how their skills can be applied outside of the CTC and how they can land positions in the fields of their choice. Not only are the instructors helping with technical skills, but they are also imparting tips students can use in interviews, out on job sites, and more.
Regarding the Welding program’s future, Don has a few plans in the works. Along with increasing enrollment, he wants to add outdoor centers for the Advanced Welding students. One such center would include a pipe rack where students can cut, fit, and weld right in position to get a feel for what welding would be like in the field, where they may need to fit and weld into tight or awkward spaces while creating effective welds. Judging by Don’s work in just the past two years, we know that the program’s future is looking bright.