Second-year Welding student Matthew Usher spent nearly two years at Western Washington University before switching gears to pursue his passion. “Mechanical engineering was my focus since graduating from high school, but I was not happy with this choice,” says Matthew.

“My father is a career welder, and that gave me the opportunity to grow up around his business,” he says.

Matthew chose Bates Technical College’s Welding program because of its reputation, and because he remembered his father hired Bates welding graduates, “because they were better employees,” he recalls.

“My career goals have so much potential because of my two instructors,” the 32-year-old University Place resident says. “They are great because they complement each other well. One focuses more on the hands-on aspect of learning, while the other is more perceptive. The different teaching styles are nice to have because I get various experiences, which expand my knowledge base,” says Matthew.

Matthew’s focus is to obtain an Associate in Applied Science degree, and earn three welding certifications. “I plan to work 5-10 years in industry, and then test to become a welding inspector,” says Matthew, who eventually wants to obtain a certified welding educator credential.

Working a full-time job during the day, and attending the evening (swing) welding program at night means long days for Matthew, who arrives home after 10 p.m. “My biggest obstacle is time management. I start work at 6 a.m. and end my day at 10 p.m. Finding time for school, friends, family, and work is challenging, while also aiming for academic success. This experience has taught me to appreciate my free time and use the rest of my time with good efforts,” he notes.

A self-pay student, Matthew makes education his priority. He has been awarded several scholarships through the college’s Foundation, which makes it easier for him to attend the program and succeed.

“The scholarships alleviated my financial burden of working full-time hours, forgoing overtime, and paying out-of-pocket for school,” he says. “I maintained perfect attendance during the past four quarters, and finding a way to achieve good grades has been a struggle.”

Matthew’s ultimate career goal is to become a welding educator, and eventually return to Bates in an effort to give back to the college and welding community.

Earning his degree, he says, gives him a sense of accomplishment. “If you put your mind towards something, you can achieve your goals.”

Bates’ welding program is the only American Welding Society-accredited program in the South Sound. To learn more, go to