Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Welding Program Coordinator Paul Phelps is the recipient of the esteemed A. Wade Martin Innovator of the Year award.

Paul Phelps Receives A. Wade Martin Innovator of the Year Award

CONTACT:  PAUL PHELPS, 646-1405 or
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                2/24/201
                                                                                                           (By Lisa Garrett)
                PENDLETON --- Paul Phelps' talent for teaching first-year welding students, as well as employees upskilling for today's workplace, along with his gift for building collaborative partnerships with area industries, earned him the esteemed A. Wade Martin Innovator of the Year award.

             Phelps, welding program coordinator at Tri-County Technical College, was singled out among 10 state technical college nominees and accepted the award at the 2014 South Carolina Technical Education Association conference February 21.  The Innovator of the Year award is named in honor of A. Wade Martin, the first executive director of the technical and industrial training program in South Carolina.  The award was established to recognize individuals in the technical college system who employ innovative approaches to meet the ever-changing needs in the technical education arena and whose achievements assist in statewide economic development and the education of students.

            In the eight years that Phelps, of Easley, has served as program coordinator, Tri-County's welding program's enrollment steadily has increased from 60 to 120 students.  In addition to teaching and advising students, he assists local companies with pre-hire assessment, fabrication training, weld testing, quality improvement and writing procedures.

            Phelps was instrumental in shaping the design and construction of the College's 43,000-square-foot Industrial Technology Center that houses the Welding and Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) programs.  The building was specifically designed to mimic a real-world industrial setting, complete with OSHA compliance standards.  In addition to teaching classes, he works with readySC staff when they offer training and assessment tests for prospective employees.

            "Paul Phelps was instrumental in McLaughlin Body Company, Inc., choosing Anderson as the location for our new facility," said Randy Frederick, general manager of the Anderson company.  "Our company representatives toured the weld labs and were very impressed with what Paul had accomplished there.  I believe this immaculate facility will help us train our employees about what we expect in our facility and I am so appreciative that he has instilled that in his students.  We have hired several students thus far from the readySC class and have been very pleased.  He designed a significant portion of the pre-hire training curriculum and instructed our first pre-hire training class with a great success rate of candidates being hired by the company.  Paul is a gifted instructor, a trusted ally in the hunt for dedicated employees, an excellent resource for information regarding welding and equipment, and a partner with our company.  I believe that our first hire of employees was a successful one due to Paul's contributions."

            Phelps is often described as a gifted instructor and partner, and industry leaders compliment the welding skills, work ethic, safe work habits, and workplace cleanliness of his students they hire.

            Dr. Joe Campbell, continuous improvement manager for Watson Engineering, Inc., said Phelps "mentors, leads and guides by example through positive and innovative leadership." Campbell cited two instances, where he provided guidance and leadership for the company with regulations and legal requirements mandated by customers and governments. 

            "Paul is able to lead and teach our welders through his exclusive, one-of-a-kind, hands-on approach that enables students and employees to grasp both the textbook and regulatory requirements of the American Welding Society.  At the same time, he helps them to broaden their intellectual equity to solve challenges outside their comfort zone. He also stays on the leading edge of technology in the metal fabrication field and finds innovative solutions to meet our training needs. He has been and continues to be an integral part of the success and growth of Watson Engineering, Inc."

            "Most of the welding instructors that I have known have been excellent teachers of their profession. On very rare occasions one has the pleasure of meeting a welding instructor who is truly outstanding in the teaching profession. Paul Phelps is that person," said Dr. Dan Averette, dean of the Engineering and Industrial Technology Division at Tri-County.  "Not only do students elaborate on his teaching style and techniques, but they commend his ability to ensure that the students understand the material and have the basic skills to produce welds that the students are proud to claim." 

            Under Phelps' guidance, students have consistently placed at the top of every welding category at the State Welding Competition held each spring at various technical colleges across the state.

            "I am honored to receive this prestigious award," said Phelps.  "But the truth is that the work noted is just me doing my job, looking out for the students, and quality of instruction provided.  I am humbled at the recognition, but it would not be possible if not for the people I work with and institution giving me the opportunity to do what I do."

            Phelps also has led the way in the development of a stackable credentials model at Tri-County.  Welding, along with CNC, is the first associate degree program to reorganize the curriculum into manageable components allowing students to complete a specialized certificate that can be stacked upon other credentials leading to an associate degree. 

            He has taken on and completed many community service projects in the past several years that have benefitted the community, the College, the division, and the welding program.  Those include a large-scale project that earned the Clemson University/Tri-County Technical College team a $75,000 grant from the Environmental Protection Agency.  The welding department partnered with Clemson University's Architecture and Landscape Architecture students in a project to take a shipping container and turn it into a hurricane-resistant housing option for residents in hurricane-ravaged countries.

            Other service-learning projects include constructing fabricated trailers for firefighters to use to collect aluminum cans to raise money for burn victims and creating the entrance gates at Tri-County's Pendleton Campus.

            "He's always available for students even when it's not convenient for him and he somehow still finds time to look for ways to continue to improve the program," said Scott Brabham, welding instructor at Tri-County.

            Phelps was honored in 2010 for his dedication to the profession with the highest award presented to the faculty, the Presidential Medallion for Instructional Excellence, at the College's annual commencement.

            Prior to joining Tri-County, Phelps worked for two years as an assembly technician and diesel mechanic at Caterpillar and a year as an assembly technician at GE.  He also worked as a welder at Sulzer and worked as a fabricator/welder and as a machine operator at Saco Lowell.  He is a 2003 graduate of Tri-County's welding department and worked as an adjunct instructor for a year and a half.  He is a former member of the American Welding Society Regional Board.

            In 2007, Phelps became certified welding inspector through the American Welding Society (AWS).  He also earned Certified Welding Educators credentials.

He and his wife, Shannon, have two children, Jonathon and Katelynn. 


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