March 14, 2009
Be True To Your School winner Lebanon Technology & Career Center gets visit from 17-year-old welding and racing phenom Brennan Palmiter.
It's one thing to hear about the benefits of pursuing a career in welding and fabrication from somebody twice your age. It's another thing entirely to hear about it directly from one of your peers.
As 17-year-old Brennan Palmiter stood up in front of the high school welding students at the Lebanon Technology & Career Center (LTCC), Lebanon, Mo., winner of the inaugural Practical Welding Today Be True to Your School contest, he wasn't Brennan the race car driver or Brennan the spokesman, he was Brennan the teenager.
It's hard to think of him as a typical teenager with everything he has going on. Besides serving as unofficial youth spokesman for welding and fabrication, Palmiter has finished high school 18 months early, has a national sponsor, a stock car racing career, and currently is on an accelerated path to earning his AAS degree in industrial management technology. His Go-Brennan scholarships, sponsored by Nut, Bolts & Thingamajigs: The Foundation of the Fabricators & Manufacturers Association Intl., is in its third offering on YouTube.
Take away all of that and Palmiter, like many of the students in the class, likes fast cars, driving fast cars, and building things.
Palmiter didn't focus on his own personal successes during this presentation. Instead, he talked to his peers about what it takes to be successful; what motivates him; and how focus, passion, and integrity are a huge part in finding one's own path.
Palmiter discovered his passion for competitive racing at an early age. Then he discovered that fabricating bumpers and repairing his car with his father was not only fun, it was necessary.
"At first all I thought about was winning, but then I realized a lot more had to be right before that happened. That's when I got my focus," Palmiter told the class.
"As a race car driver, you're going to do a lot more wrecking than you are winning. And unless you've got someone paying for it, you have to know how to be able to fix things yourself."
He is realistic about how difficult it is to break into professional racing, and said there are hundreds of other kids out there with the same dream. This is why he's counting on his welding skills to help him carve out a future in welding, possibly working in the aerospace industry.
But for now Palmiter continues to chip away at that college degree, race his stock car, and get the message out to his peers about what opportunities lie in front of them in welding and fabrication.
"It's not really me that [people] are interested in, it's what I'm doing. When these people meet you and you're doing something interesting, they'll be equally impressed. And like me, opportunities you never plan for will present themselves," Palmiter said.
For LTCC's welding students, it's more than a class; almost all of them have aspirations of pursuing welding careers of some sort after high school, said Stan Green, LTCC welding instructor.
"Welding has unlimited boundaries. You can build whatever you want and go anywhere and get a good job," junior Zach Stone said.
Some students like sophomore James O'Neal, 17, hope to be able to go right to work after graduation. Other students like Stone want to continue their education at Tulsa Welding School, Tulsa, Okla., or similar programs. And then for others, the skill will come in handy out on the farms and ranches.
The draw that welding has for many of these students quite simply is freedom and opportunity. Under the direction of Green, that sentiment is mirrored in the program's curriculum. Students spend their time completing personal projects or ones requested by other departments at the school. They also spend time preparing for SkillsUSA.
"It's nice coming here in the mornings," said Stone. "They treat us like adults."
Nestled in between St. Louis and Springfield along the I-44 corridor, Lebanon is a town with deep roots in welding and fabrication, particularly the manufacture of aluminum-chambered boats. Possessing welding skills in this town can open a lot of doors, which is the reason it is so popular and why local welder Joe DeWeese nominated LTCC.
"I work in the field and it's made me a good living, and it continues to do so," DeWeese said.
DeWeese has first-hand knowledge of the program and what it provides for students. As a member of the advisory board, he's done everything, from providing hands-on assistance in the lab—which teaches students general fabrication as well as gas metal arc welding (GMAW), shielded metal arc welding (SMAW), and gas tungsten arc welding (GTAW)—to donating scrap metal for students to weld on.
As quality engineer CWI, CWE at Detroit Tool Metal Products, also located in Lebanon, he knows the value of a well-educated and well-rounded young welder, because that's exactly what he's looking for in welders at his own company and why he's so passionate about the program at LTCC.
"This is a fantastic program and I want to see it thrive. It's a diamond in the rough," said DeWeese.
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