BCCC student finds success as a welderPublished 7:53pm Tuesday, December 3, 2013
Special to the Daily News
When A.J. Middleton spots a delivery truck — manufactured by VT Hackney — making deliveries around town, his first thought is, “I hope my welds hold.”
That’s because Middleton, 20, is employed as a welder at Hackney’s Washington plant and charged with helping build the refrigerated truck bodies that have become the standard for beverage, food service and vending businesses throughout the world.
Seeing the result of his hard work “makes me feel good,” Middleton said in an interview during a work break at Hackney.
“I love building things,” Middleton said, crediting his stepfather for that love.
Middleton was among the first group of ninth-grade students who enrolled in Beaufort County Early College High School in 2008. Last May, he was among the first group of graduates of the school, earning a high school diploma and two certificates in welding.
He began as a newly hired welder at Hackney’s Washington plant in August. He is continuing his welding studies at night at the college, with hope of earning an associate degree.
Along the way, he has overcome obstacles that have included the death of his stepfather and a period of time when Middleton and his mother were homeless and lived in his truck.
Middleton said his job at VT Hackney has enabled his family to overcome its recent financial difficulties. He is thankful for the support he has received along the way.
“Ever since I got this job, it’s been a miracle,” he said. “For once in a long while, we’re going to be able to have a Thanksgiving and a Christmas.”
Middleton admits he was nervous the first day of work. With help from more experienced workers, he said, he is finding his way at Hackney.
He credits Ted Clayton, industrial technology coordinator and lead welding Instructor at BCCC, and Garrett Voliva, the evening welding instructor, for helping him succeed.
“If it wasn’t for instructors pushing me the way they do — along with support from friends and family — I don’t know where I’d be,” Middleton said.
Middleton’s success is just one example of how BCCC and local industries join forces to give students the skills they need to succeed in jobs that are available in the region.
As part of his work at BCCC, Clayton maintains close ties with human-resources managers, like Lauren Horton at Hackney, to identify future hiring needs and help supply BCCC welding students with the skills they need to fill available welding jobs.
Meanwhile, Horton is an active member of two advisory committees that help drive the business and industrial technology curriculum at BCCC.
“BCCC is a great resource for the community and industries like ours with its curriculum programs and continuing education customized training – along with its caring instructors,” Horton said. “The work of the advisory committees is especially beneficial to the positions we recruit for in Beaufort County.”
At BCCC, Clayton identified Middleton as a student with promise as a welder early in his studies.
“He was willing to learn and willing to work.” Clayton said. “It makes a difference.”