Dakota Phillips DSC7499
Dakota Phillips

Press Release                                                                                        

Date: November 4, 2022

Contact: Lisa Garrett, lgarrett@tctc.edu

(By Lisa Garrett)

Welding Degree Prepares Veteran for the Workforce

Editor’s Update:  In the fall of 2023, Dakota Phillips joined Tri-County Technical College as a full-time Welding instructor.

PENDLETON, SC – There is a camaraderie among TCTC welding alumnus Dakota Phillips and his former instructors that didn’t end at graduation. 

Frequently, Phillips, who graduated in 2016, stops by the Industrial Technology Center where the Welding program is housed to visit with instructors. “I call them often for professional advice; we talk on the phone or text at least once a week just to catch up.  Over the years our professional relationship turned into a friendship,” said Phillips, who in 2021 joined JDI Industrial Services in Westminster as its fabrication shop manager.  

Seven years ago, Phillips was 25 years old, had completed an eight-year enlistment in the Air Force and was a full-time welding student honing his skills learned in the military and looking forward to finding a job performing the craft he loves.

He envisioned an ideal job down the road, a job where he could wear many hats, as a manager of a fabrication shop, who is able to use his welding skills on a daily basis while teaching employees the techniques he learned from instructors at TCTC. He never dreamed he would find – by age 32 - a job that checked all of those boxes. But last year he accepted the newly-created position at JDI Industrial Services. The company is expanding and last November built a new facility to better serve fabrication projects for industry in Oconee County and beyond.  The JDI Industrial Services Division serves area industries with facilities and equipment improvements and maintenance. This division’s services include process piping, equipment rigging, preventive maintenance, electrical, welding, fabrication, and more.

“This is an incredible opportunity with a great company that has a hometown feel and a company owner/management who calls everyone by name,” he said.

Phillips says his Welding degree prepared him not only for this job but all the jobs he has held since serving in the military.

In every job he has taken a skill or a piece of advice learned from instructors and incorporated it as he developed his own personal teaching or management style.

He moved to the Oconee County area from his home state of North Carolina and at the suggestion of his wife sought more education at TCTC.  After talking with Welding Department Head Paul Phelps, Phillips registered for classes on the spot. 

“As veterans we have a lot in common,” said Phillips.

He entered welding classes where he was usually the oldest student among 18-year-olds. “That taught me to be a leader among my peers,” he said. “I often helped other students when I finished my projects.” In 2016 he was named the department’s outstanding student.

“Dakota’s potential became evident early on,” said Phelps. “He has a strong work ethic, is dependable, level headed and highly skilled. He easily adapted to the welding processes and was the ideal role model for our students. He led by example.”   

When Phillips graduated in one and one-half years (with his military credits), he felt ready for the workforce. “Actually, I felt more than ready,” said Phillips, who is certified in welding processes, including GTAW, SMAW, and GMAW.

Within two weeks of graduating he secured his first job as a pipe welder. Several years later he returned home to accept a position as a welding instructor for Catawba Valley Community College in Hickory, North Carolina. He taught for three semesters.

His next job was with Michelin US2 in Sandy Springs where he was flow manager for four and one-half years.  He wanted more hands-on metal fabrication work so he applied for his current job. “This is really what I enjoy,” he said. 

He was tasked with equipping the new fabrication shop. The goal is to focus on customer’s projects to help them to prevent downtime. “We take on any project, big or small. I wear many hats as a manager and a welder,” he said.  Work days also include estimating jobs, bidding jobs and projects, interviewing personnel, and teaching. “I learn from my employees, as well.  The same goes for my former welding instructors. Anytime I call Paul, Matt Woodall or Scott Brabham (TCTC welding instructors), they can always lead me in the right direction.”

As the fabrication shop expands, the plan is to hire TCTC graduates, Phillips said. “I know they learned the correct skills to be successful in this industry. They have attention to detail and precision and a desire to grow and get better.”

About Tri-County Technical College

Tri-County Technical College, a public two-year community and technical college serving Anderson, Oconee and Pickens Counties in South Carolina, enrolls more than 9,000 students annually and offers more than 70 major fields of study, including computer technology, industrial electronics, mechatronics, nursing, and university transfer programs. Tri-County boasts the highest student success rate among two-year colleges in the state and ranks in the top one percent nationally for successful student transfers to four-year colleges and universities. To learn more, visit tctc.edu