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Peterson’s “Pay It Forward Passion” for Welding Helps Industry Superstars Reach Career Success

Former SkillsUSA student reaches industry success and now mentors the next generation.
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Photo courtesy of Nick Peterson.

Nick Peterson loves welding. Having an uncle who was a metal shop teacher helped shape his vocation. “He made amazing things like a cannon that shot one-and-a-half-inch diameter cannon balls,” he says. “When I was a young kid, we’d be in the garage welding on things, and being around that gave me an interest in it.”

Peterson started his first welding job at the age of 16, working after school in a small shop. He attended Dakota County Secondary Technical College in Rosemont, Minn., and started his journey with SkillsUSA when his instructor, Gary Wallerich, asked him to compete in the SkillsUSA Minnesota Championships. To his surprise, Peterson won two years in a row at the state competition and scored high enough at nationals to be a contender for the American Welding Society’s selection process to find the next WorldSkills USA Team welder. Peterson won a bronze medal in electric welding in 1993 at the WorldSkills Competition in Taipei, Taiwan.

For his win, he was awarded a $40,000 Scholarship from Miller Electric and the AWS Foundation to earn a Welding Engineering Degree from Ferris State University. Upon graduation, he worked for a family business in Alabama and then moved to Arizona to become the Miller Electric district manager in 2000. Today, Peterson continues to work for Miller Electric and manages their relationships with SkillsUSA, AWS and OpenBook, a free LMS system for welding teachers.

Miller Electric has supported the SkillsUSA Championships since the late 1980s when their training manager and sales manager attended the national conference. They noticed that the Welding competition had a variety of different welders from engine drives to small and large sized machines and knew that the competition should have the same equipment for each competitor. They offered to bring all of the machines to the competition and have been supporting state and national Welding competitions ever since.

Peterson has served on the Welding national technical committee for the SkillsUSA Championships officially since 1998 but has been involved on the AWS committee selecting the next WorldSkills competitor since 1993. When asked why both he and Miller Electric support the organization he says, “SkillsUSA opened doors for me, both for my education and my career. Miller believes in supporting SkillsUSA because they support students who will become the next generation of welders. SkillsUSA is an opportunity for our company to be associated with the best young welders and their instructors in the industry. If I see someone who has SkillsUSA experience on their resume, it tells me they went above and beyond in their CTE program, and they stand out from the crowd.”  

Miller Electric Mfg. LLC provides prizes for all state gold medal winners for the Welding, Welding Sculpture, Collision Repair and Welding Fabrication competitions, and makes other donations to local communities through regional and district managers. They provide the national SkillsUSA Championships with more than $250,000 of in-kind support per year. In addition, Miller and Hobart also support the WorldSkills USA Team welder for the WorldSkills Welding competition through the American Welding Society Weld Trials selection process. They provide equipment, people, and a $40,000 scholarship to the WorldSkills USA Team Welder for further welding-related education.

When asked what he gets out of being involved with SkillsUSA, he says, “I like to help ensure young welders have the same opportunities I had and that Welding competitions everywhere are fair and scored the same.”

On that note, Peterson says he worked for years to develop a scoring system for the Arizona SkillsUSA Championships Welding competition. That scoring system became the system now used at the national SkillsUSA Championships Welding competition. It is based on welding code acceptance criteria but is much stricter for the competition. “Most all competitors will likely pass welding code, but the competition is looking for the top three performers, so the criteria is strict.”

Proud of his work, Peterson says that The American Welding Society Committee is about to complete a new free document called, “Recommended Practice for Evaluating Welds in a Competition,” to foster fairness, consistency and provide measurable criteria. “This will help ensure that all SkillsUSA Welding competitions are evaluating the welds the same way as the national competition,” he says.

“We have been disseminating a pre-planned state contest and the previous national competition booklets. These booklets will be the appendix to the new AWS document as an easy way to ensure consistency as states select their welder to represent them at nationals. If all contests use the same scoring methods regardless of the project, winners will be selected with consistency across all states.”

With a passion for welding and a passion to help every welding competitor succeed, Peterson is the ultimate “pay it forward” guy who is helping ensure the future success of the welding industry as a whole.

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