“I'm 30 years old. I'm from California, born and raised. I grew up there, went to school there, and I wasn't doing nothing productive with myself. So I decided to move on to Texas in 2006. I lived with my mom for a few months, and then I went ahead and got my own place. Then I moved to El Paso for a welding job that I had gotten out there. But after that, I got in trouble.
I went to jail at the beginning of 2009, and I got out on September 19th, 2012. I got released here in Houston. I was in a halfway house downtown for nine months. I continued to look for welding jobs.
I had attended another school, Industrial Welding Academy (IWA). As soon as I finished IWA, I was looking for a job. It was really complicated because to be a pipe welder they're asking for experience or certifications, and I didn't have certifications. I just had a certificate of training, which is good, but more for yourself to see that you accomplished something. But for companies, it really doesn't mean a lot to them. So I was looking for work on Indeed.com and I came across an ad [from SER] that said they were giving out free classes for welder helpers, so I said to myself 'you know something? If I can't get in as a pipe welder because I don't have much experience, I'm gonna go ahead and try as a welder helper.' I called there, and they told me they were certifying welder helpers with the NCCER certification. That's what called my attention, because that's a well known certification in the welding industry.
Even before I went to IWA and I found SER, I knew how to weld. But I didn't know the proper names of things, and the proper names of the procedures of welding. I was what they call a backyard welder. So I was looking to further my education in welding. I learned a lot at IWA, and I learned a lot at SER. My thing is, I got a family, and I want to take [welding] as a career.
I think that SER really does help out. SER, it's a school, and it took four months to finish. They brought a lot of people over the course of the four months to come and talk to us about job positions and things like that. They do their job by you getting training, you learning how to weld, you getting your certifications, and then placing you in a job. And I really liked it.
[After finishing my training at SER] I got hired by a staffing company, but I missed a few days because I had to take my wife to the hospital. We were in the hospital for a few days. I went back to [my former employer] to tell them I could work. I told them I really needed the job, and I really wanted to work. But the reason why I couldn't just drop off my wife and go back to work was because of my little daughter. She is a year and three months old. My mom would've helped us, but she also has a job, so she can't babysit for me while I was doing this. I really didn't know what to do. My wife was sick, and she felt really weak. I had to step up my responsibility as a dad. Help her out. I went ahead, and I did that. The job said that they understood all that. They told me they were gonna go ahead and check with the staffing company and then talk to Human Resources to see if I could come back to work, or just get laid off. Also around the time that I was waiting, I applied and looked for jobs all over the internet.
But then, SER called me and they told me that they were having some people that they invited to come check us out at the shop at SER. I explained to them my situation. And they said 'we'd like you to come.' One of the companies that is hiring I'm familiar with. It's called HP Piping Solutions. I tried on my own to apply to that company, and they've never called me back. If I can't get in there as a pipe welder, I'm happy to start as a welding helper because in the end I want to be in an environment where there's a lot of pipe welder helpers so I can pick up more knowledge and more experience.
My immediate goal is finding a good company to work for that allows me to grow my knowledge. And give it all I got to become the pipe welder that I want to be. Also try to get financially stable, and finally make my family stronger.“
Shortly after our conversation with Abel, he was indeed hired by HP Piping Solutions, thanks to the connection made by SER. Abel has been working there for about a month and loves his job.