This week, AWS Learning is excited to bring you the first of a 2-part interview with welding wunderkind Chandler Vincent, one of the most skilled and decorated welders on the planet. If this is the first you’re hearing of Mr. Vincent, allows us to fill you in: Chandler’s love of welding began as a freshman in high school, and it wasn’t long before he was winning SkillsUSA competitions in his home state of Utah. He went on to compete in the national championships twice, and at just 19 years old, was chosen to represent the United States at the 2017 WorldSkills competition in Abu Dhabi. Chandler was gracious enough to chat with the AWS Learning team, discussing various topics, including his history, educational background, and plans for the future. Read on to learn more!
AWS Learning: Thanks for taking the time to sit down with us, Chandler. Let’s start with the most fundamental question: When did you start welding?
Chandler Vincent: I started welding at a vocational college connected to my high school in Utah. The college was UBTech. I had an uncle who was a welder and did all kinds of work. I got into a welding class during freshman year. Everything started when I struck that first arc and I figured that was what I was born to do.
AWSL: That’s great! Most people wish they would be so lucky to find an activity that they truly connect with. Your reputation and ties to SkillsUSA precede you. Could you talk to us about that experience a little bit?
CV: In my high school program, I heard about SkillsUSA. I saw the older kids competing. These were seniors and juniors that I looked up to as friends and people and I wanted to do the same. I trained, went and won state, and got to the national level as a sophomore. I was doing the 4 main processes, MIG (GMAW), stick (SMAW), TIG (GTAW), and flux core (FCAW). That’s when I figured out I could compete nationally. I was 16 years old at the time and I told myself that’s what I was going to do no matter what. In high school, I started my own welding business. It was going well, but I shut that down to train. The next 4 years of my life were nothing but training to represent the United States of America. What shaped me as a person and the welder that I am now is SkillsUSA. The amount of time I put into training, and the people I met… there’s not a price tag that can be put on that. It was phenomenal. Even today, the relationships I have across the world are priceless.
AWSL: SkillsUSA is definitely a wonderful organization. Can you tell us a little bit about your business?
CV: It’s a general fabrication business. I got started in small-scale rural repair, like gates, and it went up from there.
AWSL: Now, let’s focus on education. Did you have a particular instructor that inspired you?
CV: I had an instructor who turned my life around. I didn’t plan on going to high school. I was going to be a dropout. I didn’t see a reason for the math and the science and the English, because I didn’t see first-hand in life how valuable it was. My instructor, Kevin Mitchell, basically took me in and showed me what the math is used for, what the English is used for, and that motivated me to stay in school. I went to college, finished college, and basically turned my life around, 180 degrees.
AWSL: That’s wonderful! Teachers really can be unsung heroes. Of these academic facets of welding that you found a new appreciation for, what’s the one you found the toughest? Was it the math? Maybe metallurgy?
CV: Metallurgy is quite tough. I struggled with it. Math didn’t always come easy. But English, I would say, was the hardest for me. That’s definitely where I’ve lacked. There’s not a whole lot of good grammar in my small-town community with its southern drawl. [Laughs]
AWSL: It’s definitely not an issue for you now! So, are you going to be at WorldSkills next year? (Editor’s note: WorldSkills will be held in Kazan, Russia, on August 22-27, 2019)
CV: I competed in ’17, so I’m done now. My current role is to tell my story and promote the next WorldSkills, like an ambassador. Now, when the next person is chosen, I’ll help train them, and get them prepared for the international competition.
AWSL: Do you have any experience training others now? Have you taken somebody under your wing?
CV: Definitely! A lot of [effort] goes into training my own employees and helping them improve. I regularly stop by my past high school and college and help groups that are struggling. A lot of people just contact me for things like that, so I do demos.
That’s all for part 1 of the interview. Stay tuned for part 2, where Chandler further discusses his educational background, connections made through SkillsUSA, and plans for the future.