“I have to be there pushing [students] through the difficult times, to help them see in themselves what I see in them. I’ve learned students may not care to learn until they know you care.”

Aaron Ervin has taught welding for 10 years at Pike Lincoln Technical Center (PLTC), where he began his training as a welder. After graduation, he had a wide variety of work experiences: fabricating and erecting steel structure buildings, cutting apart bombs at a marine base in Twentynine Palms, Calfornia, building huge car furnaces, setting up remote control excavation equipment, and more. While working in the field, he had the opportunity to train multiple welders and found a passion for helping others.

The opportunity to switch to education came in December of 2011. PLTC suffered a devastating fire. As a result, the welding program temporarily moved to a local shop a fraction of the facility’s size with limited equipment. Ervin accepted the center’s welding position the following year, rebuilding the program from the ground up. The program now features 26 welding booths and around 50 students sign up every year.

One of Ervin’s favorite parts of being a skilled trades teacher is helping to change the trajectory of students’ lives. He has seen students grow as they progress through his program, dedicating extra time to their craft, winning competitions and scholarships, and eventually advancing through paid internships and employment opportunities. In his 10 years teaching at PLTC, Ervin’s students have won more than $455,000 in prizes. Many companies actively seek his graduates because of their competitive success, leading to direct employment offers. Other graduates attend post-secondary welding schools, join the military and secure union apprenticeships.

In his application, Ervin shared direct feedback from one of his former students, who said, “One thing I will never forget is when I would complete a task. You always asked if I would sign my name on it, like an artist does after the work is completed and he is satisfied with his work. I still hold myself to this standard years after graduating. I have been with the same company, American Boiler and Mechanical, since I graduated. I love what I do and am so thankful I had you to guide me along, even after graduating.”

“My mission is to train tomorrow’s skilled workforce to be career ready today.”