When first looking toward a career after high school, Cory Adams did not have welding in mind, and when he later decided to look into that field for mostly practical purposes, found a path that he would not only go on to be very successful in, but that he loved.
“I like the creativity of it,” said Adams of welding. “I wasn’t that type of person before and I’ve grown into a creative person, whereas before I just wanted to turn wrenches.”
Adams recently represented not only Cochise College but the entire state of Arizona at the 2019 SkillsUSA National Leadership and Skills Conference, placing 7th overall out of 39 in the Postsecondary Welding contest. The competition held in Louisville, Kentucky, took place in late June of this year and tested the practical and theoretical skills of welders who first won a competition at a state level. Cochise College welding instructor Scott Brown adds that Adams’s placement in the competitions places him “in the top 2 percent of welding students in welding schools in the nation.”
A Sierra Vista native, Adams graduated from Buena High School in 2012 and from there went to study to be a mechanic at Central Arizona College, earning a certificate in diesel and heavy equipment technology.
After a few years working for a construction company in Tucson, Adams describes that he “hit a roadblock,” and returned to his hometown to pursue welding.
“I decided to go back to school and decided that welding was my best bet, because if I had welding and diesel experience, I would be more versatile,” Adams said. “If I were working on a pipeline or oil rig, if they didn’t need a welder, they would have a mechanic.
“It was a little bit of a backtrack,” said Adams of his decision to return to school, “but I’m really happy I did it, I learned a lot more by getting my associate’s degree.”
In his two years working toward his Welding Technology Associate of Applied Science degree at Cochise College, Adams quickly proved himself to be adept in his field through competition settings. After getting third place at the SkillsUSA Arizona competition as one of two students representing Cochise College in welding in 2018, Adams returned to the state competition this year and won first place. As top in the state, Adams was then sent to represent Arizona at the national competition.
Brown, the Cochise College Building Construction Trades Department chair who is himself a product of college’s welding program and has been a welding instructor there for 21 years, acted as a mentor and instructor to Adams.
“It starts at a regional level,” explained Brown of the competition details, “and then if they qualify for top three, they get to go to state, and whoever wins state gets to go to nationals.” Brown additionally has his students compete against themselves throughout the school year to determine which two students will represent Cochise College at regionals.
After graduating in May of this year, Adams had no time to relax as he continued to prepare for the national competition in June.
“It was all a blur,” explained Adams. “I had to graduate, I had to practice for the competition three weeks straight doing 20-30 hours a week, on top of working 40 hours a week and getting a new job and moving there.”
At the national contest, the competing welders completed tasks involving four different types of welding and cutting and had to complete a “weld inspection test” that tested knowledge of welding and math. The first day of competition consisted of orientations and the knowledge test, while the second day held an arduous five hours of welding in a rotation through different stations. By the end of the event, however, Adams proved successful in a top ten finish overall.
Adams explained that the opportunity was a great experience for him. “It was about the best experience of my life school-wise, and I couldn’t have done it without my instructor and the school.”
Since nationals, Adams has accepted a job offer from the UA Local 525 Plumbers, Pipefitters, and Service Technicians and recently started working for the union in Nevada.
If he enjoys his work there, he plans to stick with the job: “I would like to stay there because I was told it’s a lifetime guaranteed job, and that I could retire at 55 at be set for life!” he laughed.
No matter where he ends up, Brown’s description of Adams as “hardworking, dedicated, and meticulous” should ensure that he will have no problem succeeding in any path he chooses.