“For the past several years, students at my vocational school had to be accepted into the program by an application process. This enables the students who truly desire to learn the trade of welding an opportunity to be successful in a very relevant profession within our community. Nothing feels better than knowing that you made a difference in the life of a student.”

Travis Crate is a welding teacher at Venango Technology Center in Oil City, Pennsylvania, where he has led countless welders to success for more than 25 years. He was introduced to the trades by his high school welding instructor and fell in love with it, going on to trade school and multiple certifications from the American Welding Society (AWS) and American Society of Mechanical Engineers. After a welding career that saw him hopscotch the country welding everything from forklifts to mobile homes, Crate transitioned to teaching, applying his experience, certifications, and expertise to the benefit of his students and their welding education.

Crate’s welding program is dynamic and collaborative, incorporating industry-based skills to prepare students for life beyond high school. As students progress through Crate’s program, they have the opportunity to mentor first-year students, providing one-on-one instruction that reinforces their learning and helps beginner students grasp welding more easily. Most of Crate’s seniors participate in a co-op program, enabling them to work part-time at a welding facility while in high school, and continue on after graduation if they so choose. Crate designed his classroom to reflect industry workplaces by keeping distractions to a minimum and holding students accountable for the quality of their work, their honesty, and dependability.

Crate encourages his students to showcase their skills in competitions, and his students have won numerous awards in the process, including the 2022 SkillsUSA National Welding Championship, 2023 Pennsylvania SkillsUSA Welding Championship, and Pennsylvania 3-Man Fab Team Championship, among others. Over the years, Crate has fielded 30 SkillsUSA state medalists and 12 AWS Weld-Off winners.

More than 90 percent of Crate’s students enter the welding workforce directly after high school and they do so with over 1,000 hours of welding experience under their belts. Because the curriculum is regularly updated based on new technologies and the needs of current business owners and employers that serve as an advisory committee, Crate’s graduates are prepared to tackle any workplace task. Crate’s students have built bike racks for local towns and provided wood burner repair services to families in need. While Crate makes an impact on his student’s lives, his students make an impact on their community.

Crate was a finalist for the 2017 and 2018 Harbor Freight Tools for Schools Prize for Teaching Excellence.

“The welding industry is in high demand for thoroughly qualified welders. If the students are willing to put in the effort, I have a good paying job for them to enter into when they graduate … I currently have past and present students working as welding engineers, steamfitters, iron workers, pipeliners, boiler makers, and linemen. To think I had a part of their success makes me love what I do.”