Heavy Metal is Music to JVS Welding Graduate's Ear
Tim Zacharias, Welding & Fabrication, Class of: 2009
Climbing the ladder to success is not easy. It requires sacrifice, hard work, attention to detail and sometimes…a real ladder!
Just ask Tim Zacharias, a welder mechanic at Stein Inc., which provides slag processing and mill services to the steel industry in Cleveland and Lorain.
Zacharias graduated from the Lorain County JVS Welding and Fabrication program in 2009 and takes great pride in using his welding skills to rebuild heavy-duty construction equipment such as large Caterpillar trucks.
"The tires on many of these trucks are taller than me," said the Avon Lake resident, who needs an 8-foot ladder just to climb inside the cab. "We tear down and rebuild these trucks bumper-to-bumper. I approach it like rebuilding a '57 Chevy. I want to be meticulous."
The loaders, excavators and dump trucks transport hot steel slag over equally hot surfaces, Zacharias explained.
"With slag temperatures hovering around 800 degrees, these loaders and truck beds are red-hot and glowing, it's pretty cool," he said. "But these trucks get beat-up pretty quickly and need constant maintenance."
Depending on the vehicle, rebuilds can take anywhere from two-to-four months, said Zacharias, who has always enjoyed working with his hands and began welding when he was 13-years-old.
"My dad built a garage for me and my friends to work in where I built go-carts and mini-bikes and there was a lot of welding involved," he said. "I've always been a very visual person. I see it in my mind before I build it."
Zacharias chose the Welding and Fabrication Program on the advice of his great uncle, Clyde Haefele, who taught auto mechanics at the JVS.
"I considered studying auto mechanics, but my great uncle thought it would be too easy for me," Zacharias said. "He wanted me to attend the JVS but encouraged me to do something more challenging. I'm very glad I took his advice."
That advice included spending extra time in the classroom with welding instructor Mark Schreiber, who helped guide Zacharias' career path.
"Mr. Schreiber worked with me after school and on weekends, whatever it took," said Zacharias, who placed first in the SkillsUSA regional and state competitions and sixth in the national event during his senior year at the JVS.
Zacharias began welding for Blue Arc Design in Grafton through the JVS summer internship program, exercising his skills in blueprint reading, MIG and TIG welding, press brakes, CNC plasma table, drills and grinders.
Laid off in 2009, Zacharias kept his skills fresh working full-time welding jobs in Ashland and Sheffield Lake and was recalled by Blue Arc in 2010.
In June of 2012, a friend recommended Zacharias for his current job as a welder mechanic at Stein.
"I interviewed and was hired on the spot," said Zacharias, who began working at Stein two weeks after giving notice at Blue Arc.
"One of the things I learned from Mr. Schreiber is to not burn bridges," Zacharias said.
"Blue Arc is a small, family-run business. They treated me well. I heeded his advice."
Zacharias, who also earned five welding industry certifications before graduating from the JVS, said that his future with Stein looks promising.
"There's room for growth with a lot of on-the-job learning," said Zacharias, who, like the projects he visualizes in his mind, sees himself becoming a master at the skills needed for his unique career as a welder mechanic.
"That's why I'll continue to be on time and work hard every day," said Zacharias, his voice weary from the12-hour shift he just completed.
It's the same advice that Zacharias recently gave to current welding and fabrication students when he was invited back to the JVS to speak to a group of new recruits.
"I remembered that some of my classmates didn't take Mr. Schreiber seriously when he spoke about the 'soft skills' needed in this trade. Skills like communication and being able to talk to people at a job interview are very important and I wanted the students to hear it from someone who went through the program and is successful in the field. Sharing my experiences with welding students is my way of giving back for all those great skills that I learned at the JVS-skills that I use every day to make my living."