OCC Graduate Helping to Construct Ethanol Plants in Iowa
Cliffton Tewell is getting the opportunity to travel and perform a job he truly enjoys after earning his Welding and Cutting Certificate at Olney Central College.
The Lawrence County native graduated in May 2013 and the following week began working on ethanol plant construction in Iowa for Winbco. The firm, which is based in Ottumwa, provides services in the field of sheet metal work contractors.
“Graduating from the welding program helped push me forward of other people who might have been interested in the job, but didn’t have that training,” Tewell said. “OCC definitely made this possible. I would not have known anything I was doing out there if not for the training I received at OCC. Everything I learned here, mathematics, blueprint reading, I use in the field.”
Since joining Winbco, Tewell has worked on new plants in Emmetsburg and Nevada, Iowa and assisted in repairs to tanks in Lyons, Kan.
“I enjoy the traveling,” Tewell said. “My wife, Heather, travels with me and she loves it too. We’re getting to see other parts of the country we may not have had the opportunity to see otherwise. The company has been very generous to me. They took me under their wing and helped make me who I am today.”
While attending OCC, Tewell gained experience utilizing equipment manufactured by the Lincoln Electric Co., including V350 Pro Multi-Process welders, C300 Advanced Process welders and a 225 Precision TIG welder. The Cleveland, Ohio-based firm is a global leader in the manufacturing of welding machines and welding consumables.
“It’s what I’m using now,” Tewell said. “Working with it at OCC definitely prepared me for what I would be using out there. My time at OCC was very much hands-on learning and I enjoyed that. But, bookwork was important as well to understanding the fundamentals of the process so when you stepped out in the shop you knew what you were doing. I really enjoyed the program. The instructor looked at you as an individual and helped you out.”
While at OCC, Tewell and his classmates even worked on a project that required them to weld outside in the elements. Tewell’s job often requires him to work outdoors and last winter he was still welding outside when the temperatures dipped below zero.
“It is very physically demanding work,” he added.
Tewell is thrilled with the doors the Welding and Cutting Program has opened for him and the opportunities working for Winbco has afforded.
“I absolutely love what I do,” Tewell added. “I get up in the morning and get to create something with my hands. I’m involved in something that is going to be there for years to come and I’m putting my stamp on it. This is a skilled labor not everyone can do. It is a very well respected career and something you can take pride in. People can look at the welds and they can tell a craftsman did that. We are also creating jobs for America. It doesn’t stop with us. Hundreds of people will be working because of these plants.”
Tewell is a union boilermaker mechanic with Local 687 in Rock Hill, S.C. He said the union stresses safety as the number one priority and being a member enables him to receive union wages.
“I do quite well,” he added. “When I was accepted into the union, I received the union pay scale of $35 an hour, plus the company provides a 75-day salary for living expenses. I have a career that provided help with starting a family and allowed me to pursue the American Dream.”
Welding is a career Tewell never envisioned for himself as a teenager. After graduating from Lawrenceville High School, he began working a series of factory jobs until he was 24.
“I was actually inspired to enroll in the program by a friend who died in a motorcycle accident,” Tewell said. “I really wanted a chance to provide for my wife and build a family. I wanted something hands-on that would be a career not just a job. With the help of my friend, I found a career choice that I could take a lot of pride in and that was also in demand. It was a big turning point for me. There is nothing wrong with working in a factory. Some people just want something different.”