Erick Gaylor, a junior at Winlock High School, recently competed in a welding competition held at Lower Columbia College on April 20 at 7:30 p.m. It was a team event and they needed two students, but Erick was allowed to go solo and garnered the title of second place against Kelso that has one of the best programs and other larger schools.
Ryan and Martha Gaylor are the parents of Erick. Ryan has been encouraging his son to weld and he currently works at Winlock School District in the Metal Shop helping students get their CTE credits. CTE is where students earn Career and Technical Education such as welding and other technical types of education.
"Kelso's welding program led by Lance Ganieany is almost in a league of their own," said Ryan. "So coming in second place to them is as good as taking first in my eyes, especially coming within 10 points of them. Ericks ambitions as an adult are unclear at the moment. He likes welding and has considered a career in welding. But something that he's even better at than that is teaching. Many of his fellow students come to him seeking advice, instruction and approval, especially from the underclassmen. They really look up to him. I myself am a capable welder, but even my abilities have grown exponentially by his instruction. So the father in me is trying hard to encourage him into a career in education. What could be more satisfying than being able to continue doing something you enjoy all the while helping shape the minds and careers of hundreds of students? With the shortage of CTE teachers in this day and age, I don't think it would take him long to find a place to plant roots. There are a lot of positive changes coming to Winlock schools and I look forward to what next year brings. Perhaps we can unseat the current champs and when we show up to welding competitions other schools will be like 'uh oh, Winlock's here, this is going to be tough!'"
Erick enjoys welding and "seeing the finished product of something I built," he said. He was very happy with winning 2nd place, he continued, "It felt good considering I had less than 24 hours to prepare for very specific events. If I had more time to practice I feel like I could have won 1st."
There is a lot to do when going to another school for a tournament, Erick stated his biggest challenge is, "There's a lot to unpack in that question because there are so many variables. I would say that knowing what sort of amperage and welding style to use with the type and thickness of metal you are welding together."
Erick is involved in helping other students but what would he say to a student that is not involved, we got him to answer that question, he stated, "The options in the welding industry are almost limitless and the income is good but it's a lot of hard work at first so do not get discouraged when your first welds look bad. Everyone's first welds look terrible."
Even though the entire event was fun for Erick, he had his favorite moment, he stated, "Definitely the FCAW (flux-core arc welding) which I had never done prior to the competition. So I guess to amend my answer to your second question about winning 2nd place, I was also proud of myself considering that I had never done any FCAW." For not doing any to win 2nd place is quite an accomplishment.
We took a few minutes out to ask Ryan, Erick's Dad some questions. It is interesting that his son is into welding, Ryan stated, "Erick sort of stumbled into it. He was in love with FFA and needed an Ag class to be in it. So welding was the first thing that crossed his path and he was a natural at it and so he kept with it." How did dad feel after his son took 2nd place, Ryan continued, "To say I was proud would be an understatement. Some of the other schools that were there have welding programs that could easily rival the local colleges. To come in second to them is as good as first in my book. Especially considering the short notice we had."
To any parent who is interested in getting their child involved in welding, Ryan had this advice, "To be encouraging and teach them patience. The first thing welding students will do is what we call stacking beads. And it's very tedious but makes the difference between a weld that holds and one that fails. The reward is worth the work as there are so many fields that need welders. There's much more than just welding pipe and broken metal together. I have a friend who welds on research equipment down in Antarctica and Greenland that requires a unique skill set and he easily brings home a year's worth of pay in 4 to 6 months time. He also gets bragging rights about having been to Antarctica."
Erick was able to go to a competition, go solo, which is usually a team sport, and take 2nd place against a school that has an outstanding program. I would say this young man has quite the future in welding. Congratulations Erick, you made Winlock proud!