Modern: We don’t feature many welders on this page. So, you must have done something of special note. What was it, and why is it important?
Taft: Since I graduated from high school, I’ve been a welder at Raymond’s lift truck assembly plant in Greene. Basically, I weld anything that gets put in front of me. Beyond that, I also focus on my welding craftsmanship. And, it paid off.
In 2022, Jim Cirigliano, our welding operations manager, helped organize an internal competition in Greene. Last year, 48 welders competed. And I came out on top of that.
That punched my ticket to Japan and last October’s international Toyota Material Handling Group’s Skills Competition in Takahama, Japan. There were welders from Toyota facilities in five countries there, and they were all really good welders.
When I came out on top, I was ecstatic. Winning the gold is important to me personally and professionally. But it also makes me realize that Toyota and Raymond value the skilled trades such as welding and provide opportunities for advancement.
Modern: The competition must have been at least a little nerve wracking. Tell us about it.
Taft: I went in excited but humble. I needed to hunker down to do well in the competition.
By the way, we had to weld a steel pressure vessel. That required tack welding including some semi-automatic welding and finishing the vessel’s surface. If you’ve done welding, you know none of that is easy to do well, let alone better than anyone else. This was quite a challenge to do in competition no matter how many times I had practiced it in Greene.
In Japan, I really had to manage my emotions. And I did. I’m proud of my craftsmanship. I get great personal satisfaction from being a top-level welder. This competition was no gimme. I had to earn it.
Modern: Congratulations! You sure did earn it. What comes next?
Taft: Actually, lots of things. I’m going back to Japan next month for another welding competition. But this one will be against other gold-winning Toyota welders from around the world. That should be an even tougher competition.
But bringing back the gold to Greene also opens some doors for me. It offers me a chance to advance. Maybe as a mentor. Maybe one day even as a supervisor.
It also opens a door for me to teach others here at Greene. I’m very confident in my ability to teach others about the craftsmanship of good welding. That’s important to me. Regardless of where the wind takes me, I’ll always have welding under my belt. And there’s something very grounding about that. It’s a good feeling.
Modern: Now that you’ve been through all this, what advice do you have for others, whether it’s about welding or some other professional path.
Taft: Don’t be afraid to try something new. I didn’t know about welding until I tried it. Give whatever attracts you a try. If you like it and are good at it, the possibilities are endless. I really believe the sky is the limit. Just keep on truckin’ through.