More than three-quarters of people that have changed career paths have done so because they wanted to either continue learning or because they no longer felt satisfied in the field they were in. Career changes, especially when you are over the age of 50, can be intimidating and not seem worth the risk. However, with the average age for retirement of men and women being 63 years old, a change can be an invigorating and rewarding challenge that allows you to enjoy the last decades of your professional life. 

Before making a significant move, it is important to conduct your own research, what is the starting pay? What is the length of required schooling and courses? On average, it can take up to one year to change your career, so be sure you are making the right move before fully committing. Take a class or two at a local community college or taking a part-time job within your desired field can help you decide if your passion and interest can become something more.

We spoke to a close friend of BlueRecruit, Brian Sanders, who decided to pursue a new challenge in the trades. Brian does not plan to make a full-time career from his newly learned skills, but he wanted to share his story with us to encourage others like him that have that “itch” to work with their hands and are considering a new field.

Tell us about your current career, how long you have been doing it and what your company does:

I have been working in high-tech for 40 years, my jobs have spanned software programming, technical support, sales and marketing, and consulting for a variety of companies and industries.

Why did you decide to enroll in welding classes?

I have always enjoyed working with my hands. I did a lot of manual labor to earn my way through college. I missed working with my hands, and recently found it harder to get people over to my house to do odd jobs. One of those odd jobs was repairing a bar-b-q smoker I have owned for about 30 years. It is really heavy duty, but after 30 years in the weather it had rusted through on the bottom. I looked to replace it, but most of the grills I found were pretty flimsy, so I wanted to weld in patches to the grill I had. I just could not find anyone to do the work. So I decided to learn and do it myself.

Why did you choose Durham Tech?

Community Colleges are great places for continuing education and vocational education. I looked up Durham Tech and saw they offered welding and decided to take some classes. It is also close to my house so getting there was not a problem. They teach a variety of welding classes which made me comfortable that they had good equipment and instructors.

Tell us about your first day in class. 

The instructor was a professional welder who possessed broad experience in welding. He stressed safety, ensured everyone understood how to use all the equipment in the shop, and took us through all the basics. 

What was the most difficult technique to learn? 

Focusing on the prep work required to weld, everyone is anxious to weld right away. And of course, technique. Technique can only be learned with practice, everyone wants to be natural, but most, if not all of us, will master technique with lots and lots of practice. I often find myself trying to weld too fast, so I do not get the heat penetration desired. Watching our instructor weld was like watching a surgeon – steady hands, good eyes, and innate understanding of the metals. 

Once you finish your course, how will you use all of the skills that you have learned?

I have lots of projects around my house and I want to continue to improve my skills. I plan to take additional classes at Durham Tech to learn different welding methods. I have been looking for a welding machine that I can easily use for welding small projects. 

What advice would you give to someone looking to move into the skilled trades after a steady career in a different industry?

Find a trade you really like. Get some hands-on experience in a class or local workshop. Think about whether you want to do the trade full time or part time. Once you find something you really like to do I recommend finding a company or person you can work for – at least initially – so you do not need to make a large investment in tools, finding clients, and a workspace. Really determine you like the trade. Also be patient – it takes time to get good at a trade. The skilled craftsmen make it look easy because they have thousands of hours of experience. Also do not be afraid to ask questions, lots of questions, many of these craftsmen know things that were never written about in the books. 

Does Brian’s story sound like something you would like to do?  

Check out AARP’s list of free or discounted courses offered throughout the country for those over 50+.