NC3 has some impressive Master Instructors in our ranks and this Instructor Spotlight series aims to highlight the incredibly talented individuals who work with us. We’ll be featuring a new interview in our monthly newsletters, here on our website, and on our social media pages each month.
NC3 Master Instructor | Lincoln Electric
Ben McFarland is an instructor and Division Chair for Welding, HVAC, Building Trades and Carpentry at Gateway Technical College in Kenosha, Wisconsin and an NC3 Master Instructor for Lincoln Electric.
NC3’s Senior Program Manager for Lincoln Electric, Pauline Foks, sat down with Ben to talk all about his work as an NC3 Master Instructor.
Thank you for sharing your story with the NC3 Network, Ben! Describe your path to becoming an instructor, what you teach and how long you have been teaching?
I wanted to go to a 4-year school and originally saw welding as an opportunity for me to pay my way through that. That said, I ended up not going to a 4-year school because welding turned into a career for me! Initially I worked in aviation, that’s my background, and then from aviation I saw an advertisement at Gateway Technical College for an instructor position, applied for it, and got the position… That was 22 years ago. So, I’ve been teaching for 22 years and I still work in industry from time to time, which keeps me current.
How did you get involved with NC3?
I went to a conference, the American Technical Education Association (ATEA) in Nashville, and met NC3’s Executive Director, Roger Tadajewski, and Dr. Matt Janisin from Gateway Technical College there. I started talking to Roger about some ideas I had for expanding NC3 into welding a couple of years before there was even a Lincoln Electric certification. There was a need, from a certification standpoint, for our students… and NC3 was the conduit to fill that need!
What is your favorite part of Train-the-Trainers and being a Master Instructor?
So much of my favorite parts are about the content within each training, but there’s a HUGE component, and this is a thing I feel very strongly about (and I think Aaron, my fellow instructor, and I express regularly), of meeting all these other instructors, and listening to their stories that I find incredibly valuable. Sometimes it’s very, very positive. After each training session, I feel like I can talk about what people are experiencing across the country. I grew up in a small town, and I know a lot of people grew up in the small towns they’re serving, so attending NC3’s Train-the-Trainer events is a great opportunity to share other experiences in addition to also being able to talk about welding and anything related to welding, as well as what we’re all doing from a certification standpoint, and how we are all doing it differently. So that’s been something that’s really cool about being an NC3 Master Instructor… meeting probably hundreds of other instructors at this point over the years. I’ve had a lot of fun with that.
What would you say to instructors/schools considering joining the NC3 Master Instructor Team?
I think the biggest thing is, “Have an open mind.” There is a lot of opportunity with NC3 and the Lincoln Electric certifications.
What people always revert back to specifically with this set of certifications is, “Well there’s AWS and it’s competition for the same certifications,” and that’s not really the case… it’s complimentary. When people approach this, they have to realize there’s a lot of support from Lincoln Electric, and this is really a pathway into certifications further down the road. For students, this is their first exposure to welding procedure specifications. This is their first exposure to some sort of certification process, and it doesn’t cost anything to the students. I’ve also found that it’s something students actually request. “Hey, can I get more certifications? What can I do?” This is kind of anecdotal, but I currently have a student that emails me all the time saying, “Hey I see that NC3 has another certification. Can you sign me up for it?!” They really get excited about it. So I think when someone is coming onboard with NC3 they have to look at the opportunity for the students and the opportunity to get a curriculum that is standardized. The standardized curriculum is a really important thing because now for our seven welding instructors at Gateway, everyone has that same curriculum. That’s a big component as far as I’m concerned.
Also, being an NC3 Master Instructor is a great way to network. I’ve met hundreds of people over the years I’ve been doing this, and what it has created is friendship. At a LEEPS advisory meeting, I attended recently, I hung out with people I met 5-6 years ago, and it was almost like we didn’t miss a day. It was kind of crazy to catch up with them and learn about how things are going at their college, how they do things differently, how they do things the same, what works for them, and what doesn’t work for them to compare notes! Being an NC3 Master Instructor is a great opportunity in that way.
Who was the NC3 contact and the administrator who helped you start your journey to becoming a Master Instructor? How did/do they support you?
That would have been NC3’s Associate Director, Dan Ramirez. How did he support me? Aaron Schreiber and I were both supported by Dan with constant phone calls and answers to our questions as well as him bringing us to Ohio for an NC3 Train-the-Trainer event. Quite honestly, it was a pretty amazing start to becoming an NC3 Master Instructor. People who come on now as a new Master Instructor also have NC3’s Lincoln Electric Program Manager, Pauline Foks… She has been a part of the NC3 team for a couple of years and works on all things Lincoln Electric specifically, which I think that’s really important because she understands the system, she understands what needs to get done, and makes it as transparent and easy as possible for new instructors. So I guess it’s a compliment to what Pauline is doing. Dan did a fantastic job for us in the early days, and I’m very thankful for that. For new NC3 Master Instructors, having Pauline on their team to support their onboarding process is an added bonus!
What’s a piece of advice for students or that you would give to your younger self or other educators?
From a student perspective, I think the big piece of advice I’d give is that online eLearning is crucial. I switched it up just a little bit this semester for my students and am grading off the eLearning first and encouraging them every single week by saying things like, “Hey, take a look at this chapter in the curriculum to make sure you have an understanding of what’s going on.” What that does is create a better, more well-rounded individual as they’re going through the process. A lot of times, the eLearning wasn’t something they were doing right up front (at least how I handled it). Students were doing their e-Learning a couple of weeks in, and now we’re trying to get them kickstarted a little bit sooner. By doing that, I have a lot of students coming to me already saying, “Oh now I understand what contact tip to work distance is… now I understand just a little bit more about it” because the verbiage is something they have to get used to. That said, I think my message to students would be, “Be open-minded and get going with it as soon as possible because it WILL make you a better welder. It WILL allow you to understand what the instructor is talking about… and it will help you understand what other students are talking about.”
For information on Gateway Technical College, please visit https://www.gtc.edu/
For information on NC3’s Lincoln Electric Program, please visit https://www.nc3.net/partner-lincolnelectric/
For information on NC3’s Train-the-Trainer program, please visit www.nc3.net/training