Gilbert Garza has been a pipefitting instructor at Victoria College for almost two years.
Gilbert Garza has been a pipefitter for over 40 years, yet he still learns something new about the profession just about every day.
“Pipefitting requires so many skills,” said Garza, who has taught pipefitting classes at Victoria College for almost two years. “You need hand-eye coordination. It requires math skills. Pipefitting requires a lot of attention to detail.”
Pipefitting classes will resume at Victoria College in January with Garza teaching a combination Level 1 and 2 class. Pipefitting Level 3 will be offered in the summer, and Pipefitting Level 4 is scheduled to be offered in the fall of 2021.
“You can complete all four levels within a year,” said Dwayne Maly, Victoria College’s director of continuing education industrial programs. “A lot of pipefitters learn in the field with the contractor they are working for. They can learn a lot of those basic skills a lot faster here in these classes and then apply them in the field.”
Garza, a native of Port Lavaca, began working in operations and refinery at Alcoa in 1973. He jumped at the chance at entering Alcoa’s pipefitting apprenticeship program in the 1980s.
“I was still young – in my 20s – so it was ideal for me,” Garza said.
Garza retired in 2011 but remained active by training welders at Alcoa.
“Welding and pipefitting go hand-in-hand,” Garza said. “If you’re a good pipefitter and you know how to weld, you’re way ahead.”
The Pipefitting Level 1/2 Combo class will be held on Mondays and Wednesdays, 6 to 10 p.m., Feb. 22-June 14 at Victoria College’s Liberty Street Industrial Training Center. The cost of the class is $1,000. Financial aid and scholarships are available, and students are not required to have a high school diploma or GED to enroll.
Students must successfully complete the Core Curriculum: Introductory Craft Skills class before taking the Pipefitting 1/2 Combo class. Two sessions of Core Curriculum: Introductory Craft Skills classes will begin in January – one on Mondays and Wednesdays, 6-10 p.m., Jan. 11-Feb. 15, and another on Tuesdays and Thursdays, 6-10 p.m., Jan. 12-Feb. 11.
“Students will start with the basics in the Level 1/2 Combo class,” Garza said. “They will learn the tools and how to use them. They’ll learn how to set up and use an oxy acetylene torch.”
“There is always a demand for qualified pipefitters at the plants,” Maly said. “We encourage those who have taken welding classes to also take pipefitting classes, because both skills complement each other.”
Due to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations, students will be required to wear a facial covering, have their temperatures taken and pass a health screening before entering the classroom. Social distancing will also be required.
For more information or to register, contact Victoria College’s Workforce & Continuing Education Department at (361) 582-2528 or email AskCE@VictoriaCollege.edu.