Mike Reinhardt

Full-Time Student and Future Underwater Welder

“I took welding in high school and was good at it, but I dropped out of school to go to work. After seven years of running convenience stores, I decided that I wanted to make a career change and earn a better living. I never thought I could afford college, but what got me back into school was the FAFSA* — it’s paying for me to live and go to school. When I found out that I could qualify for student loan money for college, I thought, ‘Why not?’

“The instructors in the program are really great and take time to help me when I need it. I want to take every welding course I can to get the experience I’ll need for my future career: I plan to become an underwater welder and am looking at schools where I can transfer and get that specialty. I also plan to earn the Welding certificate with all three specializations. Several of the schools I’m looking at will take my credits for transfer, so that’s great.

“What I like about welding is that it’s a trial and error thing, but once you get the hang of it, it’s like riding a bicycle. If I need any tips I can talk to [Welding instructors] Jeff Mitchell and Phil Suderman — you just couldn’t ask for any better instructors.

“As an underwater welder and hopefully later an inspector, I’m looking at making really good money for a while, because it’s dangerous work, but I’m up for it. The demand for both underwater welders and inspectors is great and there are so many professional avenues I can take. I could work pipelines underwater, weld under drilling rigs, work in a shipyard or do underwater bridge inspections. Probably 70% of underwater welding work is in the Gulf of Mexico, but the rest is all around the world, and who knows where that might lead?

“I’m really comfortable with my career choice — I’ll always have a job.”

Mike Reinhardt is earning the Welding Technology Certificate, with all three specializations of shielded metal arc, gas tungsten arc and gas metal arc. He plans to complete an associate degree in Welding Technology.​