OCTECHS student gets career head start

OCTECHS senior Marco Solis talks about his experience learning to weld at Odessa College. This is one of the welding areas students use at Sedate Hall. (Ruth Campbell | Odessa American)

Although welding was not his first choice, Marco Solis wants to stick with the vocation after getting hands-on experience at his job at Downhole Solutions.

Solis is a student at OCTECHS and will earn his associate degree from Odessa College before graduating from high school. The 18-year-old said that was the reason he chose OCTECHS as it was a chance to get a jump start on a career. He’s also still taking academics.

“Honestly, the welding was not my first pick. It was auto tech, but my dad told me that welding would pay more. It would be a better career since we’re in West Texas. The first day of welding freshman year, I knew nothing about it. Everything I learned was from here; all the information that I got,” Solis said.

Now Solis loves welding. He’s been working for Downhole Solutions since December.

“It’s been going great,” Solis said.

“I’m glad I made that choice and my dad strived me to pick welding,” he added.

His dad drives an 18-wheeler in the oilfield.

Welding is always a high-demand job.

“They’re always busy … They always need welders,” Solis said.

Since starting at Downhole Solutions, he has been able to try different departments.

“They have welding, which is hard banding. That’s what they have it as. They also have an inspection site and they let me try both. They don’t have me watching. They let me do the actual welding and inspecting as well,” Solis said.

He added that everything he is learning at school is being put to use in the field.

“So I don’t feel like I’m lost,” Solis said.

He was included in a workforce panel with Gov. Greg Abbott when he visited Odessa College in early February.

“It was scary. I was surprised that I was sitting next to the governor. But it was cool to see what he was striving for as well, and that I wasn’t the only student there,” Solis said.

He added that he would encourage other students to follow in his footsteps if they want to get a good paying job right out of high school.

“OCTECHS is really good for that,” Solis said.

OCTECHS senior Marco Solis talks about his experience learning to weld at Odessa College. This is one of the welding areas students use at Sedate Hall. (Ruth Campbell | Odessa American)

He practices welding through work, but also in his back yard.

“We have our own welding (setup) and I just like to go back there,” Solis said.

They have protective gear, like a clear face mask, that protects your face from all the metal pieces that would fly and hit their faces. They also supply fire-resistant shirts.

“These past four years have been good. I liked it. I’m happy I made this choice,” Solis said.

It was through Muhammad Naqvi, chair of industrial technology at Odessa College, that Solis was considered for the job at Downhole Solutions.

OCTECHS Principal Karl Miller said Naqvi was approached by a couple of businessmen asking if he had any good welders interested in applying for some job openings they had.

“The senior class of welders is four and Marco, has been one of their best welders. So he said, well, Marco, I think you should apply for this job so Marco did apply,” Miller said.

Solis had the interview not knowing that he was trying for a job that other adult men in the welding industry also applied for.

“They offered Marco the job and it was, again, something that I did not know anything about. It wasn’t until we were sitting in a meeting for advisory board for the welding at the end of the first semester in December, that this information came to light,” Miller said.

Miller said an executive from Downhole Solutions got up and told everyone that Solis nailed the interview.

“He knew what he was talking about. He demonstrated what he could do. He had it down pat and he was by far the best candidate that they had seen and they offered him the job. That story was heard by Mr. Merritt, who is the director for CTE. He shared it with Dr. Muri, who’s our superintendent. Dr. Muri shared it with the school board. The school board said Dr. Muri you need to share this with the State Board of Education. State Board of Education shared it with the governor and the governor said I want to meet this kid and I want to see that program because that sounds like a pretty good program if they’re turning out kids with skill sets that are this high and are needed and wanted by the Permian Basin,” Miller said.

Miller said the workforce event at OC was great because it recognized OC, the OCTECHS program and Solis.

“He’s earned it. The young man did a great job and he spoke very well. He always gives acknowledgement to the fact that when he started he knew nothing about welding. He’s learned from our program here and now he is the top,” Miller added.

Miller said Solis is soft-spoken and has a tremendous work ethic.

“I think probably the one thing that I hear from businesses that start to interview and see our students is their work ethic. The idea that early is on time; on time is late. And if you’re late, don’t bother showing up late and then you stay until the job is done,” Miller said.

One of the things the welding shop likes to emphasize is that you clean up after the job is done.

“Every one of those welders has that drilled into them. That you get there. You do the job. You do the job right. You do the best you can. And then when you’re done, you clean up; you get ready for the next day because it’ll be a new job. I think that sense of professionalism really comes through,” Miller said.