For New Sandburg Welding Instructor Slye, Teaching is ‘What I’ve Always Done’

  Aaron Frey
  Wednesday, October 31, 2018 3:18 PM
  Campus News

Galesburg, IL

Even as a student, Bart Slye was a teacher.

“In high school, I would finish my weld and was always in the booth next to me helping a fellow student make a weld,” Slye said. “I just couldn’t help it. It’s what I’ve always done.”

Now Slye is using his knowledge and passion for teaching as a welding instructor at Carl Sandburg College. Slye is in his first year at Sandburg after teaching for 2½ years at Dakota County (Minn.) Technical College and, prior to that, 8½ years at Northeast Wisconsin Technical College in Green Bay, where he grew up.

“I am into kindness, to a point that (students) still understand I’m in charge. Never talk down to them, never condescending,” Slye said. “Besides me being in charge, we’re both equals, we’re both human beings. I am just here to share my knowledge, and that’s what I love doing.”

Slye’s interest in welding sparked when he took a metals class in high school. He loved it right away and worked as a welder for several years out of high school. After he got laid off, though, he decided to attend NWTC to get his welding degree.

“I did a weld-off with my instructor, and after the weld-off, he’s like, ‘You should just stay here and teach,’” Slye said. “I built the teaching degree as I was continuing to work full-time.”

Aside from his natural ability, Slye’s initial decision to go into welding was a simple one: it pays.

“It’s the easiest way to make a very good wage with very little schooling. That was my choice,” Slye said. “It’s one of the higher paying jobs, and you don’t need a four-year degree to get it.”

Sandburg houses 26 welding machines — all in excellent condition, including 10 that are brand-new — and a virtual welder in its Center for Manufacturing Excellence (“You’re not being taught on old junkers,” Slye said.). The College offers certificates for several types of welding, including gas tungsten arc, shielded metal arc, gas metal arc and flux core arc. Students can complete some welding programs in as little as one semester.

“We teach those four real heavily, so when you graduate from here you have your choices of which field you want to go into,” Slye said. “You want to be a MIG welder? You go do that for a couple years. You change your mind? We’ve taught you TIG welding. You don’t have to stay with the same career. We gave you choices.”

Sandburg’s welding graduates also typically have choices when it comes to finding a job, too. Fabricated metal product manufacturing and machinery manufacturing are among the leading industries in the West Central Economic Development Region. The employment change from 2012-22 in both fields is expected to increase by at least 7 percent, and the median annual salary for welders, cutters, solderers and brazers in the region is $32,820. Nationally, that figure goes up to $40,240 ($19.35 per hour), according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“The amount of welding jobs is incredible in this country,” Slye said. “As a welding graduate, you will never have to look for a job. There’s always jobs open. You’ll never be unemployed.”

Before he came to Sandburg, two of Slye’s students last year got jobs with the pipefitters union directly out of college. It’s seeing successes like that and building those relationships with students along the way that give Slye the greatest satisfaction as a teacher.

“It’s very rewarding to see them being successful with what I’ve taught them,” Slye said. “Most of my students, because of how I’ve treated them during the program, they’re knocking me over at graduation. Instead of just a normal handshake, I’m getting knocked over with a hug.”

Bart Slye with student

Carl Sandburg College welding instructor Bart Slye talks to students in the Center for Manufacturing Excellence on the Main Campus in Galesburg. Slye is in his first year at Sandburg after teaching for 11 years at Dakota County (Minn.) Technical College and Northeast Wisconsin Technical College.

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Aaron Frey