DOBSON — The North Carolina Community College System announced Surry Community College’s Lead Welding Instructor Michael Dixon of Yadkinville as the winner of the “Excellence in Teaching” award earlier this year, and during the recent Surry Community College Spring Staff-Faculty Luncheon, SCC President Dr. David Shockley presented Dixon with his plaque.
Dixon was named Surry Community College’s 2018 “Excellence in Teaching Award,” which entered him in the statewide competition. He was also recognized at a N.C. Community College System dinner for the statewide honor on April 19. In addition, Dixon was awarded the “R.J. Reynolds Excellence in Teaching Award.”
Stewart Harris, American Welding Society (AWS) District 4 chair, also presented Dixon with three awards — the AWS “Section Meritorious Award for the Carolina Section” for 2016-2017, the AWS “District Director Certificate” for the Carolina Section for 2017-2018 and the AWS “Dalton E. Hamilton Memorial CWI of the Year District Award” for District 4, Carolina Section for 2016-2017. These awards recognize Dixon’s time commitment and excellent service to AWS and its mission of promoting the advancement of welding along with his outstanding practice of welding inspections.
“We are extremely proud of Mr. Dixon’s accomplishments. The love he has for his program and students are evident in the enthusiasm and level of expertise that he presents inside and outside of the classroom on a daily basis,” said SCC President Dr. David Shockley.
Since joining Surry’s faculty in August 2013, Dixon has helped transform the college’s welding program. During his tenure, the number of students in the program has grown from 12 to 100, and the college now has a state-of-art welding facility. In addition, welding students’ completion rate has increased; for the 2016-2017 academic year, the diploma retention rate reached a high of 72.72 percent and certificate retention was 79.6 percent. In 2017, Dixon received the SCC “Dean’s Awards for Meritorious Teaching.”
“I am honored to receive the NC Community College System’s highest award for faculty,” Dixon said. “My goal has always been to equip welding students with industry level credentials, so they can come in the door of a business knowing welding techniques, software for welding, important safety procedures, and other needed skills like how to drive a forklift. Our graduates are job ready when they leave Surry Community College.”
During fall of 2017, Dixon successfully wrote the first and only American Welding Society’s Welder Workforce grant that enabled the college to recently purchase a $22,000 MegaFab Piranha 90 Hydraulic Iron Worker that is increasing the fabrication skill sets of Surry welding graduates. Dixon was also featured in the American Welding Journal’s April 2018 edition.
Dixon serves as a role model to his students inside and outside of the classroom. After suffering a lower spinal cord injury due to a motorcycle accident 25 years ago, Dixon, now a T-12 paraplegic, decided to reassess his life and do something with his hands. He discovered that welding was the perfect fit.
“After becoming disabled, I took a step back and decided what I wanted to do in my life,” Dixon said.
He liked working with computers, so he got an Information Systems Technology diploma for networking. It took him a while to get that degree because he had many surgeries due to the accident, and he even suffered with kidney stones during that time. He later found himself working in an office setting as a sales and marketing executive, which he found monotonous, so he decided to hone the skills of welding and fabrication he had learned in his youth.
Dixon received his welding diploma in 2006, and initially, he started teaching continuing education welding classes. In May of 2007, he earned his General Occupation Technology Associate in Applied Science Degree. He is an American Welding Society Certified Welding Inspector (CWI), Certified Welder and Certified Welding Educator (CWE). Dixon has been a CWI/CWE since December of 2010. Dixon has been working at Surry since August 2013 and was a welding instructor at Forsyth Tech for seven years.
“I love being able to share welding because welding can be manufacturing or taking something and repurposing it to be a piece of art,” Dixon said. “I love taking raw steel and making it something useful or artistic.”
In October 2013, Dixon received Citizen of the Year from the Mayor’s Council for Persons with Disabilities. For about 10 years, he did peer volunteer work for Wake Forest Baptist Hospital through a support group for patients with spinal cord injuries and amputations. He also played wheelchair basketball for nine years for the Triad Trackers. Since he has taught at Surry, Dixon has welcome students with disabilities into his classroom with several students taking welding specifically to customize their wheelchairs.
Dixon was also named the 2015-2016 Howard E. Adkins Memorial Instructor of the Year District 4 Award from the American Welding Society, which includes North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia. In 2014-2015, Dixon received the “Howard E. Adkins Memorial Teacher of the Year Award” from the American Welding Society, Section 140/Charlotte Region.
During his time at Surry Community College, Dixon has also pushed to get female students in the welding program and started two continuing education classes — Women in Welding and Welding for Artists — that is taught by a female instructor who was trained at Surry.
“Women do very well as welders. They are detail-oriented and thorough in their skill set. We are paving a way for women to feel more comfortable entering a male dominated field. Once they take that leap of faith, they quickly find out that the welding industry is welcoming to them,” Dixon said. “Welding is a career that allows men and women to continue their lifelong training and education to make it from welder, to shop foreman, to weld engineer. Opportunity is always available when you pick welding as a career.”
Surry Community College welding students are trained to be industry ready and pass qualification tests in accordance with the American Welding Society, allowing them to receive their national welding certifications.
Welding can be a focus in terms of a job, or can be an add-on skill that many local companies seek when hiring. At Surry Community College, students have different educational opportunities for welding through curriculum or continuing education classes.
Surry students can earn a Welding Technology diploma, which is a three-semester curriculum program, or they can pursue welding curriculum certificates in shorter periods of time. Surry’s welding curriculum students experience the program’s FANUC robot and the CNC Plasma Cam, which is a Computer Numeric Controlled plasma table that cuts plates and pipe, teaching students the CNC side of welding along with robot training. Welding and cutting have become automated, and once welders learn CNC software they can take this skill anywhere.
Median pay for a welder is $17.45 per hour with earning potential of up to $56,000 per year according to the United States Department of Labor.
Surry Community College is currently register for the summer and fall semesters. For more information, go to www.surry.edu or call 336-386-3264. Follow Surry’s Welding program on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @surrywelding.