BEE BRANCH, Ark. –  The saying goes, keep your day job. 

However, for Grant Ragland, 23, a former nurse turned welder, it was a career-changing decision that was easy. 

“Coming here was life-changing,” says Ragland, a welding student at Arkansas Elite Welding Academy. “Leaving nursing wasn’t hard because I have a passion for this.” 

After four years of pursuing and receiving a nursing degree at the University of Central Arkansas, Ragland took a job as a registered nurse for the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at Mercy Hospital in Springfield, MO. 

“I enjoyed being a nurse,” explains Ragland. “But I always enjoyed working with my hands – I was thinking about my future.” 

Ragland had heard from friends who received their welding certificate from the Arkansas Elite Welding Academy and were doing well. In November 2018,  Ragland decided to leave his nursing job for what he calls a life-changing experience. 

“The pay is comparatively significantly different,” explains Ragland. “This program helps place students with a job and you can start off making $2,800 a week.”

It was a leap of faith for Ragland, but he says he has no regrets. 

“I feel like it’s a dying art,” says Ragland. “I enjoy working with my hands and this job gives me that.” 

The school in partnership with Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) is a federally funded employment and training program.
Despite current government funding issues, Arkansas Elite Welding Academy will still be offering $50,000 in scholarship funding. 

“I’d tell any kid to come to check it out,” says Ragland.

The Arkansas Welding Academy is hosting a Welding Competition on Feb. 16, open to 2019 graduate students. 

No experience is regarded to part-take in the competition and each student who participates will receive $500 in scholarship money. The top welder will receive a $15,000 scholarship from the academy. 

 For more information on the competition, click here.