During the week of June 28 through July 2, I attended the Lincoln Mig Welding Class in Cleveland, Ohio.
I had selected the GMAW course as my first attempt at going to one of the three really big schools, with Hobart and Tulsa being the other two.
I had been one of those guys that was taught by many others who all learned as they went and then passed that information along to me. Most of my critical evaluations to assist improvement came in the form of angry directives like "it's too f'ing hot a%^1hole" or the famous morale booster "that looks like s%$t."
I wanted to get someone that would take the time, have the equipment, and have the experience to teach me not only the how of MIG welding but also the whys.
Lincoln provides a course in a one week format that was affordable not only from a tuition standpoint but from a vacation allowance perspective as well.
With the class being five days, I could use a full week's vacation along with the associated weekends for travel to, attendance at and return from the Lincoln School in Cleveland.
While I understand the experience level that all the big schools have in teaching welding skills for decades, if there is one thing that I see as being restrictive to adult students it is the length of time that most of these courses require. Most family working men simply do not have six weeks where they can essentially relocate to another city, set up temporary housing, absorb the associated expenses with that and still keep everything at home afloat too.
I really think that the big schools need to look at their course curriculum formats and potentially break up some of the larger multi-week offerings into something that would be more reasonable for most folks to attend. As additional rationale I offer that the GMAW course that I took was very good, you could easily see a basic SMAW course fitting into the same format.
Prior to attending the GMAW class I was probably at a skill level of better than a beginner and probably at the top end of being an intermediate welder. I think the only way you can be an advanced or professional welder comes with years of field experience (not classroom instruction or testing) where you are required to work in a variety of settings, materials,equipment and conditions.
My attendance at this class has raised my knowledge base so that I can now speak about the concepts, styles and theory behind the various types of the GMAW process. Being able to do that simply raises the level of professionalism within the field. It does this by not only being able to "do" but also to be able to explain the "whys" to someone not knowledgeable in the field.
My skills level also went up as the entire class got tons of hands on experience with a variety of equipment under the watchful eye of an instructor that not only made sure you were performing assignments but were performing them correctly. Lots of positive reinforcement took place with instructors many times literally taking students by the hand to show them the correct form to use.
As indicated already it is without a doubt that Lincoln has had a bunch of experience training welders. There was ample time provided for the guided practice as well as just the right amount of time devoted to classroom instruction. Here is an interesting observation about the classroom sessions: THEY HAD A POINT! In every classroom session the instructor drove home the main learning points with real world examples of how the material covered can and will affect you when in the field or shop. How refreshing to see educational concepts made to leap out of the Powerpoint slide and be made both meaningful and memorable to the students.
I guess there two things everyone always wants to know, the first is "was it worth the money"?
Well in my case the tuition probably did not cover the electric I used for the week!
But that aside the school and equipment was top notch and the instructors were not only knowledgeable but they were EXTREMELY respectful of the students. There were no "my crap does not stink" attitudes among them and they were all very much committed to teaching welding as a profession and NOT selling equipment. Not once was a hardcore sales pitch put on and the instructors were not only knowledgeable about the operation of the equipment of other manufactures, they NEVER knocked a competitors product and answered all questions to the best of their ability. Supplies were made available in unlimited fashion and there was always a good instructor presence.
Therefore I would say for a week's worth of top notch training, YES it was well worth 425 bucks. In fact, they have got to be loosing money at that price.
The second thing folks always want to know is what was the take away? Well, in my case I got exactly what I wanted, a better understanding of the GMAW process. Some things that really jumped out at me were the need to follow technical specifications and understand the upper ends of the capabilities of this welding process.
There were numerous real world demonstrations offered through static display and photographs of what "looked" like great examples of the GMAW process that in fact were woefully poor even though they looked beautiful on the outside. The need for good penetration and welding within specification for material type and size as well as wire size was really driven home.
For me, being a guy that always judged it by how it looked, this was a humbling experience, a true "ah ha" moment.
Our instructor was a Mr. Ryan Eubank, he was experienced in the field, knowledgeable about the delivery format and very patient. He is a full time vocational teacher who teaches welding during the school year and was a wise choice by Lincoln to fill for summer vacations of their personnel assigned to the school. He did a great job and I heard not one negative comment from my fellow GMAW students about him. I should also mention that Alex Tocco also delivered some of the classroom portions of the program and he did as phenomenal a job as Mr. Eubank.
Mr. Joe Kolasa is the school manager and he is deserving of mention. As you can imagine along with the GMAW class of which I was a member, there were many other classes in session (I am told they have 105 booths there). Mr. Kolasa is responsible for all of them and I witnessed him handle every challenge brought to him with a positive attitude regardless of how many times or how big or how small and when he asked you "How's it going"? (now this is refreshing) he really listened to your feedback.
I have been to welding training programs as offered by a large local welding company, The fee was a little more money for just two days of training and not the five I received at Lincoln.
I have not been to Hobart nor Tulsa so I cannot objectively compare Lincoln's School to them. But what I can do is say that I was totally satisfied with my experience at Lincoln, it is well worth the money and I was able to learn much more about a complex subject in an environment that supported my learning and always respected me as a student.
So there you have it... a good honest review from an average Joe that atttended the one week long Lincoln Mig Weldng Course
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