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Josue Serrano

Josue Serrano’s immigrant parents always encouraged him to try harder in school, but like many teenagers, he had to learn from his mistakes the hard way.

“When I was 16, I got a job at Whataburger and working until 3am then getting up for school at 6am… man, I just couldn’t do it,” said Josue. “So I dropped out.”

After working in fast food for a little over a year, Josue’s life took an unexpected turn when he decided to help a friend.

“She got kicked out of her house and had two babies, and nowhere to go. I couldn’t just let them stay on the street,” said Josue. “Before I knew it, these kids were calling me ‘Dad’ and I knew I had to get [my life] together.”

After earning his high school diploma through an alternative education program, Josue (who was 18 at the time) quickly found work in local chemical plants doing manual labor for $11/hr.

Life intervened and Josue (biologically) became a father to 2 boys of his own, while continuing to work similar jobs. When his youngest son was only a few months old, the mother of all 4 boys left the family Around the same time, Josue’s father passed away. He was now a single dad of 4 boys and was the man of the family. Manual labor and un-credentialed work wasn’t going to cut it anymore.

“I got tired of that job title. I wanted a real job… you know, ‘Welder’ is a title – it sounds important. I see it as more important,” said Josue. “I saw laborers get laid off easily, but welders were more valuable, more secure. And I remembered that the welders in the chemical plants were always happy, always trying to help – they were just different.”

Eventually, Josue went to Workforce Solutions in search of a job, where he was told about Industrial Welding Academy.

After completing his 6-week course at IWA with no credentials, no job leads, and very little hands-on practice, a Workforce Solutions staff member called to check up on Josue, and after learning he was unhappy, told him about SER’s welding program.  After going through the stringent vetting and application process, Josue enrolled in the first cohort of SER’s new welding bridge program, which also helps students improve their math and reading skills through contextualized, career-focused instruction.

Despite various challenges that came along with being in the first class, Josue was very happy with his experience. 

“SER’s class was much more helpful than the other welding course I took,” said Josue. “The way classes were taught was much better – there was a lot more information, but we would test at the end of every week, so you couldn’t forget stuff. All the staff… had no problem staying after to help us… they were all really helpful. When I was applying for jobs and had a welding test, they would come extra early and teach us/refresh us on certain positions [the employers] were going to test us on. The other school was nothing like that.”

“I like how SER’s program is more than just welding – I learned so much new stuff!” said Josue. “The [NCCER] Core, [OSHA] safety, job readiness, even the math parts – it was all really helpful. And the certifications really draw attention when you apply for a job.”

“I got a job right at the end of class… [someone] posted something on GroupMe of places that were hiring, so I applied and got a job making $16/hr. full time,” said Josue. “I worked there for a few weeks, but it wasn’t a good job… they treated people like crap from day one. And when they wanted me to weld galvanized steel [in an unventilated space] without a respirator and I told the foreman I wasn’t willing to risk my health for $16/hr, I left… I have 4 boys to take care of.”

Josue is currently working at HTX Made as a welder earning hourly and per-project wages, which varies from week to week.

“Every week is different. I like it because you get a bunch of metal tubing, you’re putting angles on it…you’re creating something” said Josue. “I like to look at each project and be like ‘I did that, you know!’ It’s a learning experience. They’re really nice people.”

“In the long-term I would like more [consistent] work, though… I’m a single dad of 4, so I gotta balance somehow,” said Josue. “Right now it’s all about getting experience. Eventually I would like to be a combo welder, and maybe a welding inspector, but I gotta have at least 5 years under my belt for that.”

Josue, now 25, currently lives with his mother, sister, niece, and his 4 sons (ages 10, 9, 8, and 4) in a small home in Magnolia Park, but wants to buy a home of his own next year. To reach this goal, he recently started working with SER’s financial coach, who helped him explore options and purchase a vehicle as part of a long-term plan to build his credit.

“I feel like I’m going somewhere, not just living paycheck to paycheck. It feels good that when someone asks ‘What do you do?’ I can say ‘I’m a Welder’ – it feels good to have that title.”

If he could give one piece of advice to someone who might be on the fence about making the commitment to such a long-term training, Josue said: “Give it a shot. You won’t regret it. It works out in the end.”