ROSENBERG — Austin Hargett makes roses bloom from metal — thorns and all.
The Texas State Technical College Welding Technology instructor can also get scorpions to skitter out of aluminum, bees to buzz around a honeycomb of hex nuts, and many other feats of metalworking.
A co-worker who became a friend showed Hargett the ropes when it came to exploring the different applications of welding beyond industry.
“He was kind of an inspiration to me to get into that side of the field,” Hargett said. “It was just something that was new to me. It was fresh. I could create something and use more creativity than just by-the-book standards. I like the artistic side of things because there is no right or wrong way to do it. It’s just whatever you want to make.”
Hargett has made rings, bracelets, sculptures and even memorial works for friends and family members.
“The more time I spend on something, the more in-depth and cool pieces I end up creating,” he said. “Most of my art that I make is usually for friends, family or for some sort of donation piece. I feel bad for charging for the things that I feel like are just special.”
One of his favorite works so far has been a winged cross with a metal rose in full blossom that Hargett made in remembrance of a cousin who died in a car wreck. He fabricated the sculpture at TSTC’s welding shop in Fort Bend County during his free time.
“TSTC’s been really supportive of me being able to work on things on campus,” Hargett said. “That’s always very helpful.”
Before becoming an instructor, Hargett was actually a welding student himself at TSTC. He discovered a love of welding while experimenting with scraps in his backyard as his father tried to repair a trailer. In high school, Hargett took welding as an elective.
“I found out that I was going to be a better welder than a baseball player, so I took off to welding school,” he said.
Coming back to teach at TSTC after gaining experience in the field represented coming full circle in Hargett’s journey.
“TSTC is ... always supportive of me and supportive of students,” he said.
Hargett has seen a lot of students go through the welding program during his year of teaching.
“You try to help everyone, and some of the cases are real special to you and hit close to home,” he said. “I get a lot of feedback and calls back from students that have graduated and are working and how thankful they are that I helped them to get where they’re at. That’s pretty rewarding.”
Welders can make an average annual salary of $45,250 in Texas, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Onetonline.org projects that these positions will grow by 13% through 2028.
While the demand for welders is high in Texas, Hargett encourages prospective students to keep their interests and training broad.
“There are plenty of welders out there, but there is a shortage of quality,” he said. “The more versatile you are, the more processes you learn, the more fabrication you learn, the more blueprints you learn, the more pipefitting you learn, you’re a much more well-rounded person.”
Learn more about TSTC at tstc.edu.