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A neighbor expands

A waterfall of sparks pours from a pipe as a student at Tulsa Welding School practices cutting metal in a lab at 11th and Lewis.

This article is part of an occasional series exploring the neighborhood around The Campbell Hotel.

In an old car dealership on Route 66 a few blocks west of The Campbell Hotel, hundreds of Tulsans are cutting, shaping and welding together new futures.

Tulsa Welding School held a ribbon-cutting ceremony last week to dedicate its new state-of-the-art training facility at the corner of 11th Street and Lewis Avenue.

With demand for welders on the rise, the school – which opened in 1949 – has seen its population increase dramatically in recent years, said David Gilliam, director of education for Tulsa Welding School.

“We were having to turn students away. We were saturated,” he said. “We had no more space.”

To accommodate the influx of new students, Tulsa Welding School has expanded into the former Mike Quinn Dodge building at 11th and Lewis. In addition to welding classes, the new campus — which has both classroom and lab space to give students hands-on experience – offers training in pipefitting, Gilliam said.

“Twenty-first century teaching is what we’re all about,” he said. “Every way we can to get them real-life experience is what we want.”

Tulsa Mayor Dewey Bartlett called welding and pipefitting “the jobs of the future” as Baby Boomers in those fields are retiring faster than they are being replaced.

“This is a big deal. This is a very big deal … for the city of Tulsa,” Tulsa Mayor Dewey Bartlett said during the ceremony Thursday. “We need pipefitters. We need welders. We need machinists. The training that you all are providing … is a blessing.

“That’s the underpinning of our economy,” Bartlett added, noting that Tulsa has more manufacturing jobs in the oil and gas industry than any other city in the United States, with the exception of Houston.

Gilliam said Tulsa Welding School tries to create a fast-paced, realistic experience for students so they are fully prepared to succeed in the workplace after they graduate.

“There’s no time to goof off,” he said. “We try to set the pace for them here.”

Students who graduate in good standing can come anytime they need to brush up on a particular skill, update a resume, or get help finding work, Gilliam said.

“We don’t just shove them out the door and say, ‘Thank you. We’re glad you came,’” Gilliam said. “We have lifelong partnerships with those students.”

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