Sparks are flying at Trinidad State Junior College


ALAMOSA—It’s pretty much impossible to find a San Luis Valley farmer or rancher who doesn’t need to weld once in a while. That reality gave birth a few years ago to winter night welding classes at Trinidad State Junior College.  

“We take everybody from where they are and try to make them better,” said Jack Wiley, Dean of Career and Technical Education at Trinidad State.

This year two sessions were offered under instructor Jack Cochran, with one of the students in the first class opting to continue with the second session. His name is Vernon Coblentz. He’s a ranch hand at Rock Creek who has been shoeing horses since he was 17. Now 31, he started welding on the ranch and found out he has a knack for it.  

“I needed someone like Jack to take the glitches out of myself!” he quipped. “Jack has been a heck of an instructor,” he added. “We clicked immediately.”

Cochran said, “I’m actually a cowboy making a living welding.”  

Raised on a ranch, his first intention was to rodeo but he got beat up quickly. When he was offered a job welding in 1974, he decided he had better take it and has been welding ever since.

Jack didn’t like school. When he was in the seventh grade, a science teacher caught him looking out the window daydreaming. That instructor said to him, “You’ll never make a living looking out a window.” Referring to the window in his welding helmet, Jack bragged, “I showed him. I make a living looking out a little window every day!”

Most students come from farms and ranches, but not all. Among the students are a husband and wife team who knew nothing about welding. Lisa and Jeffrey Hendricks thought it would be fun to do something they could enjoy together after they retire. He wants to use his new skill for home repairs and she is excited about creating art with it. Since the class started on Valentine’s day, it is their Valentine’s gift to each other.  

“I’ve worked my whole life and I want to do something fun in my retirement years,” she said.  

“I love it!” He added, “She has taken over the garage with her crafting. Maybe I might get some of it back if we weld together!”

Lawrence Martin, a retired State Patrolman who is now ranching, said, “I can make things stick together but I’d like to make it look a little better.”

Like Martin, others know how to weld but they’re looking to brush up on their welding skills. Charles Wagner, who knows Cochran, decided it would be a good time to do just that!

Farming with her dad the past four years, Erin Nissen earned a BA in Agricultural and Applied Economics at Texas Tech in Lubbock, Texas, and she wants to add welding to her skill list.

Facebook is where Joshua Sisneros and JR Martinez learned about the class. Sisneros wants to make a career out of welding and he figured this would be a good place to start. Martinez, who works in industrial ventilation, wants to “build knowledge and improve his skills.”

Those who would like to see other continuing education classes offered at the college can call Jack Wiley at 719-589-7064.

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