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January 26--  A man whose first job after high school was welding has been teaching his craft for years at Southeastern Technical College in Vidalia and this year is the school's "Instructor of the Year."

stccrumplerMichael Crumpler (right) with STC President Larry Calhoun was named in ceremonies Tuesday night.

"This is my fourth time being nominated.  As I get older and think about retirement, it is good to have this honor especially because it is given by our peers, our peers choose us, and it's special having my wife and daughter present.  My daughter is graduating this year from our technical college," he said.

Crumpler is proud that over the years he had helped his students find a career, "My students have run the gamut from ex-convicts coming in saying 'I guess my life is pretty much over and can you do anything to help me?' I tell them absolutely that we can teach you a trade that's going to benefit you for the rest of your life.  I've had single parents, women and even a handicapped student paralyzed from the waist down and he got his diploma and all of his welding certifications.  Just seeing their faces light up when they actually learn that skill and knowing all that is made possible through a technical education, that is why I do what I do every single day.  Welding is my trade and I absolutely love it."

Welding is also lucrative and Crumpler says it's a wide open market for future students.

"The American Welding Society tells us right now that the average age of welders in the United States is 58 years old.  As these guys and gals seek retirement, our industry is going to experience a labor shortage like there's no tomorrow.  Our industry pays really, really well and companies are willing to pay the wages.  That alone is encouragement that they can come to a technical college, give me about a year to a year-and-a-half of their life, learn a trade and a lot of times they can start through a union making $36 to $37 an hour," Crumpler notes.

Crumpler will compete in regional competition and nine regional winners will be judged statewide in April.