At last count, there were more than 1.5 million podcasts available for folks to tune into for entertainment, education and to pass the time during a long commute. Name a topic – blockbuster movies, electrical engineering, the life of bugs – and there is probably a podcast dedicated to it. Within that ever-growing collection, there are, unsurprisingly, quite a few podcasts dedicated to the art and trade of welding.
Ranking high on that list is Arc Junkies. The podcast has been going strong for several years with positive reviews and more than 150 episodes. Jason Becker is the host, and
during each episode, he trades banter with his guests about anything and everything that might be of interest to a new welder, a lifelong welder and everyone in between.
Episode titles include “Four Inch Fillets and Grooves,” “Resources for Welders, Educators and Students,” and “Step Up Your Aluminum TIG Game.” While the topic matters can range from technical to practical, episodes like “10 Things That Require Zero Talent” prove that Becker also has a knack for creating a casual, easy-going vibe. No matter the episode, he and his guests let their conversations flow freely, which makes for an enjoyable listener experience.
Passing the baton
Before Becker took over as the host of Arc Junkies, Jimmy McKnight had been at the helm. But, when McKnight’s career ambitions took him in a new direction, he asked Becker to carry the torch for him.
“I was kind of reluctant at first because I’d never run a podcast before,” Becker admits, “so, I took a couple of weeks to think about it. At some point, I thought, ‘you know what, I was a listener of that podcast and I don’t want to see it go away.’ I figured, if I can help keep it going and relate my experiences to help some other people out on their welding journey, then let’s do it.”
As far as Becker’s experiences are concerned, he has enough to fill up another 150 episodes and then some. His bio on the Arc Junkies website describes him as a welder/fabricator with 23 years of hands-on experience, a Marine Corp. veteran, an American Welding Society (AWS) certified welding inspector and certified welding educator (CWI/CWE) and a full-time educator at Valencia College in Florida where he’s managed the welding program since 2016.
In terms of the pressure he initially felt when taking over the podcast, those feelings quickly subsided when Becker realized just how many resources and information he had to tap into. Twenty-three years in the welding business will do that.
“I’ve been pretty active in the welding industry, especially since I got into welding instruction in 2014,” Becker says. “I base a lot of the episodes around what I teach and where I think the holes are in the educational gap.”
From there, Becker seeks out subject matter experts and brings them on the podcast to talk about aspects of the topic that are interesting and unique. To date, Becker’s strategy has been working. He’s received a ton of positive feedback and has doubled the number of Arc Junkies downloads since taking over as host.
Listeners aren’t the only ones to benefit from the information that Becker and his guests discuss on the podcast. He says that one of his favorite parts of the gig is getting the opportunity to learn more about welding-related topics and products that cross his path that he might not have known about before.
“I try to find topics that are interesting that I don’t know a whole lot about – that way the conversation with the guest can be organic where I can go at it from the perspective of the listener who is also new to the topic,” Becker explains. “I feel like I ask the best questions when I’m truly intrigued about the product or the process that’s being featured.”
A good example of that is Rockmount Research and Alloys’ maintenance electrodes, which Becker recently featured on the podcast. The maintenance electrodes are meant to be used in the field where a welder has limited time and limited access to resources. An example would be somewhere where the welder can’t get into the weld area to clean it or even identify the material that needs to be welded. Becker wanted to feature the electrode on the show because he had never heard of a product that could do what it promised.
“If it’s something that I think would be interesting or beneficial to the audience, it’s most likely a good candidate for the podcast,” Becker says. “In addition to finding topics online, I’m constantly interacting with people in the industry. I’m also pretty active on LinkedIn, Instagram and Facebook.”
Recently, Becker partnered with the AWS to produce “Weld Wednesday with AWS,” an extension of Becker’s regularly scheduled podcasts that are released every Monday. The goal for Weld Wednesday – just as is true with the regularly scheduled podcasts – is to give AWS members and listeners an outlet to get answers to their questions about WPSs and PQRs, welder qualification requirements and AWS’s career-advancing certifications.
“We’re going to do a year’s worth of podcasts,” Becker explains. “Since we do it once a month, we have plenty of time to collaborate and plan for each episode. We put our heads together, come up with a list of contacts where they might reach out to guests or I can reach out to folks that I think will be a good guest based on the topic. January’s podcast is going to focus on student sections, which should be great.”
So far, the “Weld Wednesday with AWS” podcasts have featured Howard Record, a CWI and welding engineer, on how AWS helped him advance his career; Nate Bowman, a CWI, CWE and certified welding supervisor (CWS), on the process of becoming a CWS; Dr. Scott Helzer, author of Modern Welding Technology, on welding documentation; and John Douglas on AWS Foundation scholarships and resources. Becker also interviewed Stephanie Hoffman and Barbie the Welder about a sculpture that the two welder artists created for AWS’s Arc 2 Art initiative aimed at bringing more people into the welding community.
Inspiring and inspired
The Arc Junkies mission statement is to “Help, educate and inspire the next generation of welders,” and Becker is doing that around the clock. As the welding program manager at Valencia, he’s working with students Monday through Thursday in class and then offering up his free time on Fridays for students that need extra help. When the time allows, he’s calling on local businesses to learn what they’re looking for in their new hires in order to help place his students in good careers.
“The school helps our students secure jobs, but I take an active role in finding them,” he says. “Since I’ve been with these students for 20 weeks, I can identify where each person would be a good fit. So, I’ll go out and talk to the companies in our industry to find out what skills they’re looking for in new hires, what processes they use the most and which of our students would be a good match. Once graduation comes, it’s easy to place a student in a company or line of work that they can thrive in and enjoy.”
Even though he hasn’t personally met many of his listeners, he’s made a big impact on them, too. Through social media, Becker regularly gets messages from listeners thanking him for opening their eyes to a new technique or product or helping them get through a challenging project. He’s also received messages that relayed a level of gratitude that he never expected.
“I heard from a listener who told me that Arc Junkies motivated him to get off the couch and start welding again,” Becker says. “He got injured at work and was in a rut, but after listening to one of the episodes, he got inspired to get back into welding and start his own business doing mobile welding and repairs. It motivated him to get back out there and weld again despite his disability.
“I’ve been so humbled to be a part of the podcast and an educator at Valencia,” he continues. “It’s really cool to see the impact that you can make by inspiring people to get into welding or to further their career by taking the next step to become a CWI or CWE.”
To tune into Arc Junkies, find it on iTunes, Spotify, iHeart radio, Amazon, Stitcher, Google Podcasts, the list goes on and on – just like Becker’s podcast topics, there are too many podcast platforms to list.