Byron Allen of Salisbury was working at Cambridge International as a weaver and prepper when his coworker told him about free welding training she had completed at Wor-Wic.
“I wanted to learn welding, but didn’t have the opportunity to learn it at work,” Allen said. “When I called for information, I learned there was a free metal fabrication class available at that time. I applied, thinking it would be half over before my 8-year-old son started second grade, when I would need to focus on him and help him with his homework, and I would be on a schedule with work and school by then, so it was good timing.”
The course was free due to funding provided by the EARN Maryland grant program administered by the Maryland Department of Labor.
Allen said he was nervous to start the course. “I’m 38, and when I thought about taking the entrance exam, I started to panic. So, I bought a fourth-grade fractions book from Barnes & Noble and practiced for two weeks. Then it was no problem.”
He said what he liked most about the course was that he had a great teacher and a small class. “The smaller class size was perfect. It allowed me to really take it in. We were all able to get extra attention from the instructor, which was beneficial.
“The course was a good mental exercise to solve problems, a nice confidence builder to know I can tackle new things,” Allen said. “The metal fabrication course seemed difficult at first, but after a month or so, I really enjoyed learning new things. I worked full time, getting up at 3:30 a.m. to get to work by 5 a.m., then getting off work and taking care of my son, helping him with his homework and then going to school at night. You can do a lot more than you think with your time.”
After completing the course in November of 2020, Allen was hired at Crystal Steel Fabricators to start at the beginning of January.
As for his plans for the future, Allen said he’d like to work at Crystal Steel for the next 10 to 12 years. “I want to become proficient in everything — vertical overhead and flat horizontal welding on pipe and then go on from there. I want to learn shielded metal arc welding, flux core arc welding, MIG, TIG and tungsten arc welding. I want to be able to draw the designs, form the metal and put the pieces together. Crystal Steel has high standards, so I want to learn everything their way.”
Eventually, he says, he’d like to go into fabricating smokers and grills. “When I retire, I’d like to open a BBQ restaurant with outside seating near a fire. I think a lot will change permanently due to COVID. People will be getting more carryout and they’ll want to sit outside to eat all year round. I think it would be nice to work with family around and maybe have a business to leave to my son. I used to be a chef and I’ve always enjoyed working in restaurants. I like the atmosphere.”