Texas State Technical College Welding Technology instructor Jose Salas and Welding Technology student Jesse Salas have a father and son relationship that you could say is as strong as a good weld.
A skill passed down through generations, Jesse is now a student in TSTC’s Welding Technology program. It is a program his father has been an instructor in for 37 years. Coincidentally, both men began their journeys at TSTC at the same age.
“As I was growing up, I’d be in and out of the shop to visit my dad,” said the 25-year-old. “But never did I think I would be a welding student, even more so my father’s student.”
Returning to his roots
Straight out of high school, Jesse enlisted in the U.S. Army with service for four years in Alaska. He also served in a one-year deployment to Afghanistan. While in the Army, he began to gain an interest in the skills trades such as construction and welding. He made the decision to apply for admission into TSTC, but did not declare a major.
“I thought about a career outside of the army, I wanted something that would give me job and financial security,” said Jesse. “And after much consideration I decided on welding. Welding will always be around, no matter what. Everyone needs a welder.”
So after returning to the Valley, the younger Salas immediately got his military benefits in order with the help of the TSTC Veterans Center. He then enrolled in TSTC’s welding program.
Jesse now expects to graduate in Spring 2020 with Welding Technology Certificate 2, which is focused on structure and pipe welding, and an associate degree.
“Welding really is in my blood,” he said. “The moment I got into the classroom, everything just clicked; like I had known it all along. Welding is an art and it’s challenging. There’s so much more to welding than I ever expected. I love it.”
Jesse also has a certificate of completion in Introduction to Electrical, Forklift and Occupational Safety and Health Administration training from TSTC’s Workforce Training and Continuing Education.
And even though Salas is Jesse’s instructor, they both agree there is no special treatment.
“School is all up to me,” said Jesse. “If I study, great, if not, that’s my fault. If I pass I pass because of me, and the same if I fail. I’m just one of the students in my dad’s eyes.”
A legacy being passed down
Salas said it was a proud moment for him when Jesse’s declaration for his major became Welding Technology.
“My father left all of his welding and fabrication tools to me when he passed, and now I’ll get to see my son use my tools,” said Salas. “It’s like a legacy that’s being passed down. I always knew he would make a good welder, and not only because he’s my son.”
The 61-year-old instructor even keeps his son’s class projects in his desk at work.
“It’s been a great experience sharing all of this with Jesse,” said Salas. “He even has the same locker I did as a student. He fought for it, even though he didn’t want the others in class knowing I was his father.”
Jesse admits that he wasn’t honest at first with his classmates when they would ask if Salas was his father.
“I didn’t want anyone to think that the success I was seeing was because he was my dad,” he admitted. “But I could only hide it for so long, and I’m really proud of my dad and his contributions to the college and this program. It’s great seeing him in action.”
Jesse said he sees the countless hours his father puts into a day just to make sure everyone has time to finish assignments, projects or to get the training they need to improve their skills. He said his father is all about success for everyone.
Salas has high hopes for his son in the industry, and Jesse has big goals. They said welding opens up many doors of opportunity, locally, statewide, nationally and overseas. He hopes to find work to gain the experience he needs to advance in the industry. He said for now though he is practicing in class and on his 1935 Ford truck.
TSTC is a family affair for the Salas family. Salas graduated with an associate degree in Welding Technology in 2009. Jesse’s mother Sylvia Salas was also a product of TSTC. She was an employee of the TSTC Business Office for more than 35 years. Jesse’s brother Joey Salas earned his certified drivers license at TSTC’s Continuing Education Transportation Training Center.