Welding student hits the open ra...

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Brian Brooks TCCC Student

Brian Brooks, Tri-County Community College alumnus, welds on the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad No. 1702 Steam Engine as part of the rebuilding process. (Photo courtesy of The Great Smoky Mountain Railroad.)

Following graduating from Tri-County Community College in May 2010, Brian Brooks never expected his welding degree would lead him to a dream job working for the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad.

“I was familiar with machines and I took welding in high school,” Brooks said. “I’m drawn to that type of work and Tri-County was a local and affordable option to earn my degree.”

For Brooks, gaining a degree provided a stable and steady source of income for himself and his new family.

“Since gaining my degree, I have not been without work at all,” Brooks said.

Brooks, who has worked for the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad for two full years, said he has his mentors at Tri-County Community College to thank for his current position.

“When I look back at the mentors I had at Tri-County, I am thankful for the ambition they gave me to pursue a career,” Brooks said. “I owe my biggest successes to my welding instructors because without their patience, I never would have completed my degree.”

During the last two years, Brooks worked with a team to rebuild the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad No. 1702 Steam Engine, which had not been operational in more than 12 years. In August the engine officially made its debut, culminating two long years of hard work.

“I’m really lucky – most welders have to travel, and I did that for several years, but now my job is three miles from my house,” Brooks said. “Thanks to the skills I gained at Tri-County, I’ve been able to maintain and build a career.”