Father/son learn together at NPCC
North Platte Community College’s welding program is helping a father and son build a future together while making memories along the way.
Chris and Sean Hurley are from North Platte. Sean is taking welding classes as a traditional student, and his father, Chris, is studying alongside him following a career change.
Chris spent almost 20 years as an engineer for Union Pacific Railroad but has been on disability since 2017.
Sean graduated from North Platte High School in 2020 then took a gap year before continuing on to college.
“After that, we both knew we needed to do something,” Chris said. “Each of us had an interest in welding, and we had tossed around the idea of starting our own business. Everything is just kind of falling into place.”
Both men took welding classes in high school and have welded on various projects on their family farm. They own a shop and most of the equipment needed to begin a welding business but knew they would need more training if they wanted to go that route.
“The college was right here in town, so we decided just to go for it,” Chris said.
They’re glad they did.
“It’s been fun,” Chris said. “We’ve had the opportunity to spend more quality time together than we would have if Sean had gone to college somewhere else.”
“It was a little interesting going in,” Sean said. “I wasn’t sure what it would be like taking classes with my dad, but I’ve really enjoyed it. We usually have booths right next to each other. We check in with each other and have someone to bounce ideas off of.”
The college experience is a first for both of them, which makes their built-in support system even more special.
“I was set up to go into a trade right out of high school, but I didn’t,” Chris said. “Instead, I went directly into the workforce and did a little bit of everything. I worked in appliance repair, ceramic tile installation, at a parts department for an auto dealership – even built battery chargers for a manufacturing plant before I hired on with the railroad.”
Because welding has always been a fascination of his, he’s enjoying being able to make up for lost time.
The certifications the Hurleys are pursuing will make them more employable in the long run and will assist them if they do start their own shop, take on fabrication projects or conduct structural work.
“We’ve had the opportunity to refine our skills at the college and do it on more and better equipment than we would have otherwise had access to,” Chris said. “We’ve learned a lot about processes and what’s happening at the molecular level so we can better understand what’s going on when we’re actually welding. The program is good about showing you areas you need to work on. It has been a beneficial learning experience without a doubt.”
Sean has also appreciated the quality of education NPCC has provided him as well as the affordability.
“I’ve been able to live at home, and we each got Pell grants and scholarships, which means our student loans are minimal,” Sean said. “At the same time, I feel like we’re getting a good education. I’ve learned about more obscure processes than I would have by pursuing welding on my own. I’ve enjoyed that and the one-on-one instruction. This is a really nice program.”
The men agreed they have learned a lot just from working beside each other, keeping one another accountable and pushing each other to be better.
“We get along well,” Chris said. “When one of us is having trouble – the other one is the first person we go to. If there’s a question – we work on it jointly. We really are our own little team in class. This experience has definitely brought us closer together.”