Workforce Wednesday: David Puente builds a new life through GRCC’s welding program with a boost from Metallica

David Puente moved to Grand Rapids to be with his girlfriend and start a new life and found a new career through Grand Rapids Community College.

“My vision of Grand Rapids was much different than what I found to be true,” he said. “There are so many opportunities for people and so many resources to help. The Metallica Scholars welding program is just example of how Grand Rapids is different.”

The GRCC Metallica Scholars Welding Bootcamp offers people the opportunity to gain skills for entry level welding positions.  It is a short-term program to get welders work in West Michigan, with the goal of helping these residents grow into apprenticeships or other learning opportunities within the welding field. 

Puente had no experience as a welder but wanted to take a welding training program while he was incarcerated. COVID shut down that idea as all hands-on programs were no longer offered.

When Puente was released, he heard about the Metallica Welding Scholars program through his parole officer, and got in contact with Tassell M-TEC team members.

“I started getting emails and text about the program and I signed up. The people at GRCC have been so helpful.”

The program goal is to build an accessible pathway into the field of welding with a focus on producing ready-to-work welders for Kent County companies. This program works to attract, retain, and graduate people of different genders and racial and ethnic backgrounds to welding careers.

Puente believes it was all it was meant to be.

“I really wasn’t looking for it. It was a real blessing how it all came together. I hadn’t had any welding experience before. I had never held a welding gun. So, when we held that welding gun on practically the first day, I was really surprised at how well I could do it!

“I was excited and a little intimidated at first. Nick Pinckney, our instructor, is very good and very knowledgeable. I had all the confidence in him. He never skipped a beat. His teaching is very thorough and that helped build my confidence. Because of that, I knew I would come out of this class knowing how to weld.”

For many adult learners, class schedule can be a barrier.

“Because the program is offered at night, it allowed me to work during the day. I have to continue working and carrying on my responsibilities. The schedule made this possible for me.”

For a long time, Puente didn’t have a career path. “These skills not only allow me to provide more for my family but also give me direction. It’s a good feeling to feel stable and confident that I have given myself the opportunity to live a stable life and develop a career.”

Puente grew up listening to Metallica.

“It’s great that they have used their resources to give back and make a difference. When you have the opportunity to make a difference you should. I am very grateful. The program has been excellent. The fact that the Metallica scholarship covered the $4,000 tuition was truly a blessing.”

Puente plans to gain more skills in the future.

“This is not where it ends. This is the beginning of a great thing. This is an opportunity, not just for me, but my whole family is excited about it!”

Puente started at Etna as a hand welder in August, making a great hourly wage with opportunities to earn more!

“I feel so good about it! This certification gave me the confidence to get a direct hire position.”

Metallica Scholars is a partnership between GRCC Workforce Training, the band’s All Within My Hands foundation, and the American Association of Community Colleges.

The next offering of the Metallica Scholars Welding Bootcamp begins Oct. 27, 2022.

To qualify for the program, participants must be 18 years of age, have a high school diploma or GED, and be able to work in the United States. For more information go to grcc.edu/metallica.

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