With Undergraduate Degree In Hand, Robinson Passes On Law School And Joins GTCC Welding Program

Published on: June 28, 2021
GTCC Welding Student Holland Robinson

When Holland Robinson graduated from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington in 2019, her sights were set on becoming a lawyer. With a major criminology with a concentration in criminal justice and a double-minor in campaign management and prelaw, it seemed natural.

It turns out, she’s pretty much a natural at welding, too. She just didn’t know it at the time.

“I didn’t want to put myself through more schooling, classrooms and papers and studying. I was so tired of it and I was very interested in welding and things that were involved with that. I had just never actually done it,” said Holland.

“I was fortunate enough my mom paid for four years of undergraduate, but she said anything after that was on me. Quite frankly, I didn’t want to be $150,000 in debt for three years of law school, then study to pass the bar. I didn’t want to face that.”

Enter Guilford Technical Community College. She discovered the school’s welding program, researched it and figured “why not.”

“I just signed up and showed up,” Robinson said of her leap of faith. “I have always been a creative, hands-on person and I don’t mind getting dirty. I figured why not give it a try.”

She began classes at GTCC in August of 2019. In two weeks, once the paperwork and safety lessons were out of the way, the hoods went down and the real class work began.

“I’ve always been good at things, but I’ve never had to apply myself like I have in welding. I would go cry for a minute and think ‘why can’t I get this.’ It has really tested me and showed me what I’m capable of, help me find strengths. One thing I knew was I didn’t want to sit at a desk and be bored,” said Robinson, who holds down two jobs while going to GTCC, working as a bartender and at a jewelry store.

“It was a completely different everything. I had never welded before. I had signed up for three or four classes and they all were welding classes. The first day of class they were going over the syllabus and I’m wondering what have I gotten into.”

Robinson wasn’t the only rookie in class, though.

“Most people were new and had never done this before. They went over the safety with us, and that kind of scares you, you can get electrocuted or burned or die,” she said. “Again, I was wondering what I had gotten myself into.”

Robinson said even though she didn’t have a clue what she was doing at the beginning, she got more comfortable once hands-on work began.

“I had no idea what I was doing. I didn’t know these things existed. I had never even watched a YouTube video of welding or anything. I was so mad and frustrated because I couldn’t strike off (creating an arc) and initiate the burn. I’m still frustrated at times.”

Class time was lost because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Robinson was supposed to finish the diploma program last July but has extended her classes.

“Because of COVID I didn’t think I got the hands-on time I needed, and I wanted to be more proficient,” she said.

“I feel much better about my skills now. I’m so glad I could retake these three classes because of COVID. I was able to carry over what I learned the first time into this; I have that previous knowledge I can carry over. That has definitely helped me.”

Repetition is key to developing welding skills, Robinson said, and her reps were cut by COVID.

“There is lots of muscle memory involved in welding. There are at least 20-different things going on in your brain with every weld,” said Robinson. “Your body position might be right, but your speed or angle are off. You have to always be focused.”

With graduation looming this summer, Robinson said she is “much more proficient” at her craft. She is mulling her future with input from her professors.

“I have researched a lot of companies. I have talked with instructors about a lot of options. I’m weighing it all out, but I haven’t decided anything yet. More training is an option, depending on where I get hired. They may want to teach me their way and I understand that,” said Robinson.

One thing is certain, choosing GTCC and welding over law school was a solid decision.

“I really do enjoy welding. It’s a double-edge sword. I feel really good when I accomplish something and really bad when I don’t, I’m very hard on myself. I always have been. But I love what I’m doing.”


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