RACHEL, W.Va. (WBOY) — Western Welding Academy’s (WWA) “Blue Collar Tour,” traveled to Marion County Technical Center (MCTC) as part of its 2023 Tour on February 13.

The tour is traveling coast to coast, in which it will visit thirty schools and states across the United States. MCTC was the twenty-second school that was visited in this year’s Blue Collar Tour. Braxton County High School’s Welding students even traveled to the Technical Center to participate alongside Marion County students.

During the visit, members of the Western Welding Academy showed up as early as 8 a.m. and stayed at the school until it was dismissed at the end of the school day. Many welding demonstrations were shown to the welding students before the students themselves had the opportunity to try out the hands-on activity known as “tig welding.”

Along with the demonstrations, stories were shared and discussions took place about how important trade jobs are to the country. Tyler Sasse, WWA CEO and Founder, mentioned the exact reason he feels blue-collar jobs are important. He said, “for three generations we’ve really pushed this ‘college,’ but there’s just a lot of money being made out there in the trades and there’s a huge labor shortage.”

Sasse referred back to when the COVID-19 pandemic hit when plumbers, welders, electricians and carpenters were deemed “essential workers.” Sasse added, “all the things that we just totally take for granted, throughout our everyday life, they’re made possible by all these people from the trades, so it’s really powerful.”

Sasse mentioned that according to labor data and the average age of Blue Collar workers, the majority of baby boomers turn 65 in 2023 and that they make up a huge majority of the workforce. The CEO talked about his love for America and the trades, and how he realized that not many people were out talking to students about trade jobs. He felt the need for somebody to do this, so that is what inspired the “Blue Collar Tour.”

This is the third year of the tour, and the first time they have stopped in West Virginia. Within the first year, the organization traveled to 15 schools, the second year was 20 schools, and this year is 30. Students and staff send in requests, and then the organization looks for where the most need is at. They decide where to go based on a voting system.

The rosters of students attending were entered to win some door prizes consisting of t-shirts, glasses and hats. Students could even enter themselves into a “truck giveaway,” which works by gaining entries by buying merchandise at this website. The truck is a custom welding truck built by Jesse James.