One class in welding was all it took for Candace Ortega to become hooked. “It was like my heroin,” said Ortega, who studied welding at Tarrant County College from 2009 to 2012. When she decided to return to school, she found herself drawn to welding as a discipline after tackling several projects around her home.
Charles Credicott oversees the Welding Program at the South Campus. According to Credicott, the program’s objective is to train students to have solid entry-level skills; 70 to 80 percent of their students never have welded before coming to TCC.
While attending TCC, Ortega became a student assistant and took every opportunity to shadow Credicott, who has more than 40 years of experience in the discipline. “She was a natural and caught on quickly,” said Credicott.
In 2013, Ortega became the College’s first female welding instructor. Welding is a non-traditional career for women, who comprised 4.8 percent of all welding, soldering and brazing workers in 2014, according to the U.S. Department of Labor Women’s Bureau.
“Welding is a great career for women because of their innate attention to detail. I want more women to consider welding as a career!”
Ortega takes every opportunity to speak with high school students about what they could accomplish in the field.
Credicott says she is an excellent teacher who is supportive of her students. “She tries to elevate them and make sure they are successful,” he said.
Ortega’s enthusiasm for the discipline and student success never dims. According to her, “Students come first!” Her office door is always open and students can call her anytime for help with an assignment. “I try to get to know my students and find out their needs,” she said.
Jason Purdome, a recent graduate from the TCC Welding Program, sings Ortega’s praises. “She considers it her responsibility to know every student within three days of them starting her class,” he said. According to Purdome, Ortega is so committed to student success that if students are struggling with a weld, she will guide their hands with her own until they understand what is required.
Purdome says 80 to 85 percent of the student’s time is spent actually welding. “Candace is famous for saying, ‘Hood time is good time,’” he laughs.
“Candace is a very patient, nurturing, passionate teacher,” said Christina Bozzell, who earned her Certificate of Completion in 2016. “She does everything in her power to Christina Bozzell, who earned her Certificate of Completion in 2016. “She does everything in her power to include us and teach us more than just how to weld, but also the practical aspects of welding in real life.”
In March, 35 area Boy Scouts attended the South Campus for training to qualify for a Welding Merit Badge. Ortega says that while training the scouts can be a “bit of a zoo,” she loves working with them.
Scoutmaster Bob Nankervis had waited one year for the chance to bring his troop to the training, although he had never worked with Ortega. He found her to be an excellent instructor who held the boys’ attention in the classroom.
“This is a trade they can possibly use and are excited to learn,” Nankervis said. “It’s a wonderful opportunity because shop programs are being cut in many high schools.”
One of Nankervis’ scouts, Devin Hepworth, a junior at Timber Creek High School in Keller, said, “I would definitely do that (welding) again. It’s really interesting and pretty fun.” He says welding might be a future career for him.
Both Bozzell and Purdome have worked with Ortega to train the scouts. Purdome describes the experience as “incredible.” He says it reinvigorated his love of giving back.
Bozzell believes the organization and structure Ortega puts into the event is what makes it smooth-flowing and safe. “Just another example of her going above and beyond to nurture minds and share her passion!” Bozzell said.
Kara McDaniel, a district manager with Lincoln Electric Company, works closely with Ortega to make the scouts’ training a success, furnishing many of the supplies needed. The company is committed to generating interest in welding as a career. Her first exposure to Ortega was in the TCC welding lab.
“You could instantly tell that Candace was a remarkable teacher, role model and dedicated instructor.”
Ortega, who says she will never stop teaching, admits she enjoys the looks from students that say, “I got it!”