Surehand Spotlight: David Turley

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The Surehand® Spotlight shares just some of the many thousands of stories in the skilled industrial trades, shining a bright light on the hard-working tradesmen and women who build, operate, maintain, and ensure the safety of the world we live in. We also focus on the individuals and organizations working hard to advance industrial sectors and ensure their success over the coming decades.

This month, we train the spotlight on David Turley, a welder and outdoorsman from the great state of Kentucky.

Photo credit: David Turley

Welcome to the spotlight, David. Tell us a little about yourself…

I work for a company called Schlumberger. They build particle separators for both the oil field for fracking and the food industry for companies like Frito-Lay. They use the separators all over the world for all kinds of different stuff.

How did you get your training to be a welder?

I went through Gateway Community and Technical College. They go through with you on all of your structural certs. It’s a mixture of lecture and lab time, so it’s a good way for you to get your foot in the door.

Do you feel that having formal training helped you get a job later?

Yeah, it helped some. A lot of what you will run into when you’re fresh out of school is that everybody wants experience. It’s hard to find some welding jobs that will let you in. You have to get your foot through the door. It’s all about on-the-job-experience.

So, how did you get your foot in the door?

I co-oped while I was in college for a company that built rendering equipment for Darling Ingredients.

What does co-op mean?

I went to school and the days I wasn’t at school or could do a half-day, I would go straight from school to work. It’s kind of like an internship, but it also counted for credits in college because they’re part of a co-op there. (Darling Ingredients) is local and I had heard a lot about them, so I went to talk to the Supervisor there, and they pulled me in for an interview. They were nice enough to give me a shot and I worked my way up from there.

Sounds like a great way to get started. How did you find the co-op opportunity?

You have to search. You have to call multiple companies in your area and see if they’ll work with you. A lot of them won’t, but some of them will. You just stay with it until you get a “yes.”

What has working as a welder taught you?

When I came out of college I was very green. I didn’t understand how to build anything. I understood the basics of blueprints, but your problem-solving was not there, because I had never built anything before.

Even if you know how to weld, that’s only a quarter of the job. The rest is all about knowing how to read blueprints, knowing how to fit stuff. When something doesn’t go together right, knowing what you have to do, you have to brace stuff when you weld it. All kinds of stuff goes on while you weld; nothing holds still for you.

What’s the most interesting welding job you’ve done so far?

I built a grind-smooth unit for a PVC outfit that had to be to food-grade code. These are big units, so it was like, a month and a half long project, and in the end they polished all the stainless we’d built and it turned out really good. It’s nice to see a bunch of individual parts come together and turn into a machine, especially when it gets through all the processing and it gets to assembly and you get to see the final product.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever gotten as a welder?

I had an older guy who I worked with who was a firm believer in letting you mess it up because you won’t do it again once you have to cut it back apart. It was more of a “tough-love” teaching moment there.

What do you like best about being a welder?

The freedom. I like to just go into work and go to my booth, know what I’m going to do, and be left alone to just build a unit. We don’t have a lot of supervision, so they need people who can go in there and work on their own and be able to finish a job in a timely manner. Time passes quickly, so it’s not a long, drug-out day.

I always enjoy building something new, something that nobody’s ever built before. It’s challenging; I like challenges.

What advice would you give to someone just coming into welding?

Get your foot in the door through a company and learn as much as you can. The first job ain’t always going to be your last job, you just need the experience to get into a better position. Nobody wants to hire somebody who has no work experience. Once you get the experience it gets a lot easier.

What do you like to do in your downtime?

Fish, swim, that’s what we do. I like to ride in outdoor parks, just do a bunch of outdoor stuff.


Our thanks to David for making time to share his story and industry insights with us. We look forward to watching him advance his welding career and wish him continued success.

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