People you meet at Starbucks

March 3, 2012
By: Amanda Carlson

My colleague, Vicki Bell, web content editor for, recently wrote a blog post regarding an article she read on titled "Some employers want return of vo-ed training,” where she expressed her disdain for the premise that reintegrating vocational education into high school curricula is “culturally unpalatable.”

Among other things, she said, “You simply have to have doers [versus thinkers] to bolster the economy and sustain the lifestyle that many of us have enjoyed throughout our lifetimes.”

This reminded me of a gentleman I met while I was standing in line at Starbucks at Chicago’s McCormick Place during FABTECH® last November. After a long morning of back-to-back-to-back appointments, I was craving a pick-me-up in the form of a caffeine-infused specialty latte. I decided that the benefits from consuming such a luxury item were worth standing in the 70-some-person line that snaked around barricades and into the concourse.

Just as I had finally reached the counter to place my order, the man tapped me on the shoulder and introduced himself. His name was Allen Parsons. He handed me a business card, and just before the barista beckoned my order, said, “I have one request … more aluminum welding coverage.”  I barely had time to respond when, out of the corner of my eye, I saw the barista give me a look akin to that of a certain stingy soup-serving character from an old Seinfeld episode. By that time Mr. Parsons was on his way.

Earlier this year I e-mailed Parsons, hoping he could elaborate on his request. The e-mail exchange turned into a phone interview, which became this issue’s Shop Stories. I came to learn that Parsons' desire for more aluminum welding educational content extends beyond the pages of this magazine. He detailed the dearth of educated, experienced aluminum welders in his region.

“Our company has been in the forefront of meeting with schools and donating time and materials, all to show the local colleges that there is need for this skill set.”

The only problem, added Parsons, is that his company, Kvichak Marine Industries Inc., Seattle, is vastly outnumbered by area companies that work primarily in steel. This prompted the aluminum boat manufacturer to start up its own in-house aluminum welding school specifically geared toward aluminum welding and boat fabricating.

Welders in training start their educations at ground zero, learning about metallurgy, aluminum’s fickle nature, and hands-on techniques with several of Lincoln Electric's VRTEX 360 weld simulators.

Instead of waiting for vocational schools to heed their request, other Kvichak employees and Parsons rolled up their sleeves and got to work. In other words, they didn’t wait for someone else to do it; they addressed their needs all by themselves.

I’d say that qualifies as a doer, wouldn’t you?
Amanda Carlson

Amanda Carlson

FMA Communications Inc.
2135 Point Blvd
Elgin, IL 60123
Phone: 815-227-8260