A Few Minutes With … Doug Ford

Photo of Doug Ford

Doug Ford

Current position: Fabrication and Welding Faculty  

Work Life Before Lane: Spent earlier career in kitchens and was a chef when he decided to change careers. He was a student in LCC’s welding/fabrication program and is a certified welding inspector and certified welding educator through the American Welding Society, the organization that sets the global standards for structural steel and piping. 

Prior Work at Lane: In 2015, joined college as an aide/instructional specialist in the welding and fabrication program and has been a full-time faculty member since 2018-19.

Abstract painting by Doug Ford.

Personal Look: During the pandemic, Doug has spent more time on his art. He’s an abstract painter and enjoys painting with acrylics to explore colors and forms. 



Q: How did you get into welding/fabrication and what drew you to becoming an instructor?

A: I needed to change what I was doing for my life. There’s not a lot of upward mobility or insurance working in the restaurant industry. It’s great money and stable money and pre-COVID, there was always a job and the ability to travel. But, I was ready to settle down and that meant focusing on my education and going back to school. The reason welding? It’s working with your hands and it seems silly but it kind of seems like wizardry because you have electricity that you’re using to fuse metal together. It’s like magic really. It’s fusion. You take two pieces of metal and make them one piece and you can’t tell the difference. It drew it to me, electricity, the heat, the fire, the flames. All the different facets of welding. There are so many different genres you can get into. Everything is welded unless it’s made with wood. It’s like the magical glue that holds the world together and I was interested in being a part of that. 

Q: Welding. Fabrication. What’s the difference? 

A: Welding is fusing two pieces of metal together. Fabrication is being able to read a blueprint and create something. You could become a parts welder and never see the final product. A fabrication welder would be able to read the blueprint and understand it. It’s like learning another language. When I teach blueprint reading, I let students know that it is a new language of symbol and numbers. Fabrication is learning a different language of symbology to read from a blueprint. A welder would weld parts of the box. The fabricator would build the box.

Q: Have you had to alter how you approach your job/instruction as a welding and fabrication instructor during the pandemic?  If so, how? 

A: We had to make it happen. I used some of the big hitters in the industry’s  training videos. The training videos have benefited the student because there is a lot of trial and error and hand eye coordination with welding. The traditional way is: let’s get in a welding booth and go for it. This way, I can pause the video and let them see a weld-pool close up. With a weld pool or puddle,  you’re noticing 15 to 20 things at the same time, and with the video I can hit pause and blow it up on the screen and point out details that might be missed otherwise. It takes a lot of the guesswork out of it and really helps get into a student’s head so they can see what the puddle is.   

As far as transition to hybrid style and teaching online, it is propelling us into a new way of teaching that wouldn’t have existed otherwise, at least not for a while. It’s worked out really well. I see the students coming and being further along sooner with this hybrid style of teaching, rather than the traditional style of teaching, because I’m able to pinpoint what I’m talking about on the screen.

Q: What do you mean by pool and puddle? 

A:  The weld puddle is the small area of molten metal that is present for a just a second while the electrode is directly over the spot being welded. Once you take the welding arc off of it, there’s a brief amount of time when the pool is liquid. We’re dealing with a lot of unseen forces, magnetism, gravity and it could start to droop on you. If it’s not hot enough the toes of the weld aren’t welding in. There quite a few things they need to consider: the right angle, the right travel speed, right parameters on the machine. I need to be sure that they can see that weld puddle correctly. I can’t see through the eyes of the pupil, but I can see what they did because it’s frozen in the weld pool. You can read the welds. I can tell if a student was holding their breath, the angle they were using, I can tell what they did each step. 

Q: How have students adapted to the hybrid model?

A: The practice of welding, it’s almost impossible to teach online, but you can get the basics online. How to position yourself, wear all your clothes correctly, set your shade (different shade numbers for lenses). Some people haven’t had much hand-eye coordination, so we’re doing training techniques that we wouldn’t have used otherwise. We wrote out COVID protocols early on and ordered PPE, printed out signs for the floor and were able to reopen the last three weeks of spring term and all summer and now, fall. The nature of the welding booths, they’re already sectioned off and each has its own ventilation system. You’re not breathing in anyone else’s air and the booths are already six feet apart. We were already 90 percent there to be able to bring students safely back into the space. 

Q: Is there a demand for welding/fabrication jobs during the pandemic? 

A: We’re continuing to grow our committee advisory through this pandemic. Most of the fabrication shops in this region are still rolling. We added four new folks to our advisory group. We just met with a boat fabrication company that needs people. There’s a steel fabricator on Mohawk and they’re just crushing it and growing exponentially. There will also be needs in the community related to rebuilding after the wildfires. We can place everyone of our students locally who finish this year and next year. I don’t have any concerns about that at all. There’s also the boomers who will be retiring, so it’s an in-demand trade. If they want to travel, it’s even more money. 

Q: What do you think other LCC employees may not realize about the needs of our students during this time? 

A: Kindness. Courtesy. Just understanding that our students right now are under a whole lot of pressure and they may not always understand where that pressure comes from. They don’t have a lot of experiences. They grew up in the cell phone era. There are these anxieties that we need to have compassion with. Caring, kindness and compassion. That’s what I try to do without degrading their instruction. Flexibility when ushering this new era of technology and instruction. 

Q: Have you started any new work or general practices to help you better adapt to our remote work environment? 

A: Yes, because I can’t get as close or do as many demonstrations or go back and forth and be in the booth with the student. I’m focusing more on terminology and articulating what I teach. So that when we talk to each other they understand exactly what I want rather than me showing them what I want. I’ve also had to train myself. I really got on the ball with training myself to become more efficient and run online classes. Half of my students when I started were more adept then me at computers. In a way, it creates a bond, when one of your students tells you: ‘you know you can save time if you do it this way.’ I’m learning from them, too. 

Q: What are you most looking forward to when we can use the term: post-pandemic? 

A: (Laughs) There’s not going to be a post-pandemic. Our department didn’t miss a whole lot, but I really miss being able to be more hands on and getting into the booth with the students and work with them a bit more closely. I’m looking forward to more hands-on mentorship. 

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