Associated Press, David Kirk, Times West Virginian Published

Blue Collar Tour Brings Welding Rockstar To W.Va.

A welder wearing a safety helmet works with an arc welder as sparks Stock

Blue collar jobs could see a mass worker shortage soon, but a group from Wyoming hopes to spur interest in the profession.

“It’s been really painful because the Baby Boomers have started retiring out of the blue-collar workforce,” Tyler Sasse said. “We as a society have been preaching college for the last three generations, and these trades have been suffering.”

Sasse, founder and CEO of the Western Welding Academy based in Gillette, Wyoming, brought his tour to the Marion County Technical Center on Monday. His school was voted the top welding academy in the country in 2022, and the school has garnered a significant social media following in the last few years.

He’s witnessed the dip in the workforce firsthand, and he wants to make an impact beyond the borders of Wyoming.

“We get probably 300 applicants each class and we only accept 13,” Sasse said. “I wanted to do with something high school kids across the country.”

From that desire was born the Blue Collar Tour, a state-to-state bus tour where Sasse and other welders travel in a bus across the country, visiting one high school in 30 different states.

The schools are chosen by a vote of interest from the students at the schools, and Marion County Technical Center won the slot to be the only school in West Virginia to earn a visit.

Monday morning the bus pulled in to the school parking lot where the welding students were met by Sasse and his team. His visit involved giveaways, lessons, Q&As and a workshop where the students could show their skills.

Within the lessons, Sasse hammers home the importance of work ethic, accountability and integrity — tenets he appears to stress ahead of welding skills.

MCTC Welding Instructor Jeremy Sakacsi was grateful for the opportunity for his students to meet Sasse. The fact that his students garnered the excitement to win the votes to bring the tour to Marion County is proof they are a passionate group of kids.

“(Sasse) is a huge influencer on social media, and a lot of my students have followed him and watched his welding and his school. So for a lot of these students they get to meet an idol,” Sakacsi said. “But not only is he an icon in the field — he’s a role model for these kids, and they can learn a lot about the industry.

“Hopefully this shows the students that there really are other options besides high school and college.”

Providing alternatives to college pathways has been a major push in the last few years by the Marion County Board of Education. School Superintendent Donna Heston has said on multiple occasions that college isn’t for everyone.

Sasse remarked that it’s apparent the students in Marion County have a lot of support behind them when it comes to technical education.

At the forefront of that support system is Marion County Technical Center Principal Jay Michael. Monday, he was standing next to the students watching and listening to Sasse talk about the intricacies of welding.

A teacher or counselor telling a student they can make it in the welding world is one thing, but hearing about the demand for welders from someone in the workforce can be invaluable.

“Being able to bring folks from the industries in, that’s the critical piece we’ve added to the tech center,” Michael said. “There’s no better person to tell a student about the industry than someone who’s living it every day. That’s the kind of opportunity we look for, and that’s what (Sasse) and his tour is providing.”

For information about the Blue Collar Tour, visit