Jacob Humphrey is used to working with several different types of metals. The Wallace State Community College student started welding when he was 14-years-old.
“My grandpa had an old Lincoln buzz box welder,” said Humphrey. “So I would go home and practice in the shop and he would help me fix some things around the farm.”
On Friday, June 28, he added a new piece of metal to his arsenal: a gold medal from the SkillsUSA competition.
“[Y]ou get down to the final three and you don’t hear your name on third and you don’t hear your name on second and you really get nervous when you hear first. And it was my name, so I felt relieved after that,” said Humphrey.
More than 6500 students competed across more than a hundred different skills contests last week ranging from carpentry and machining to firefighting and nurse assisting.
Humphrey’s medal is the second gold for the Wallace State welding program and the first since 2009. Wallace State is also the only community college in Alabama that has ever won a gold in welding at SkillsUSA.
Welding instructor Jim Thompson gave credit to the passion of his students for the school’s successes.
“If we didn’t have students that were willing to work hard at it, we would probably not be sitting here at this point,” said Thompson.
“It puts the program on a different level nationally because of that. Because, again, it’s a very tough competition.”
One of the unique ways Wallace State teaches its welding students is with a its VRTEX virtual reality arc welding trainer. It allows them to practice on a dummy t-joint to improve their technique until they are ready to work on real metal.
Thompson hopes kids will look at students like Humphrey and get inspired to take the first steps into joining the skilled trades.
“These kids, when they come out, they’re craftsmen. They are craftsmen. So we have to think about we need craftsmen in our world to keep this world turning,” said Thompson.
And now that Humphrey’s competition days are behind him, he’s looking forward to becoming a full member of that world.
“I do some part-time work now. I plan on either traveling or staying around close to the Huntsville area, welding in aerospace or something similar,” said Humphrey.
To learn more about SkillsUSA, click here.