By C.N. Staff Writer
Delmus J. Nelson is a native of Sumter, South Carolina and has an untold story. Relocating to the District in 1988 from Sumter, Nelson knew he wanted to work and immediately began working. Now 15 years later, today he owns and operates his own welding business and welding school.
Nelson relocated to the District because of his sister back in ’88 and immediately began working with his brother-in-law learning sheet metal work. He joined the Local 100 Sheet Metal Union and continued learning. Eventually, he wanted to branch off on his own and find other work and he began sending off his resume. He got a call from the Department of Corrections and went out to the Lorton, VA prison facility.
He said, “When I went for the interview they were interviewing another guy for a welding position and they were supposed to interview me for a sheet metal position.” He was hired over the other guy, but he was hired to do welding, which he admits he did not know how to do. “I had a rough start because my supervisor wanted to fire me, but I was determined to make it work and began taking classes to learn welding,” he said. He attended the Well and Test Institute in Woodbridge, Virginia and became certified as a welding instructor and His persistence to learn the craft paid off.
Nelson was working in the maximum-security facility at the Lorton prison until it closed in the early 2000s. After he left Lorton he came back to southeast where he resides off Suitland Road in Ward 7 and began working for himself. He built a small warehouse in the back of his house and worked from his home for many years. Soon he outgrew his house and acquired the facility where he currently works from, 1101 W St. SE, behind the Big Chair. Interesting to note, Nelson renovated the symbolic Big Chair on Martin Luther King, Jr. Ave. SE in April 2005. The chair is made of African mahogany and weighs 4,600 pounds. It is 19½ feet high and stands on a concrete, 4-foot-high pedestal. Its seat is as large as two double-sized beds.
Today his shop is booming with government and private business. And in August of this year Nelson opened up his privately-owned welding school, Southeast Welding Academy, a school designed to teach students and residents who want to become certified welders. “This has been my goal every since I opened my welding business. My school was a long process, but the last couple of years I was I got more involved,” Nelson said.
Nelson said he opened the school because there is so much welding work to be done in D.C. and there are not enough skilled welders available to do the work. He said the D.C. area is bombarded with welders who come from Maryland, Virginia and as far as Delaware. These out-of-state welders come because there is so much construction, which requires welders, taking place in the city and the market it untapped. “I believe that the school can change people’s lives and feed their families,” he said. Mia McAllister is a 19-year old Ward 8 resident who attends the school. She said, “I like the school. I want to make welding a career. It’s fun to me.”
Mia is one of 6 students the school currently has enrolled. Students who attend the school will get certified through the 120-hour course where they will learn how to weld through hands-on instruction and classroom instruction. Nelson said his school aims to produce world class welders that can go out and be an asset to anyone or company they will work for. “No student will leave without the knowledge of welding,” he said.
Nelson said he hopes to expand the student population beginning in January. He will train 20 students per quarter and plans to offer evening classes soon. Students who enroll will pay a nominal fee to attend, but will become certified by the end and Nelson will help with job placement. He said that the Department of Public Works (DPW) and Metro is currently looking for welders, so it is a prime opportunity for anyone who wants to learn the still to pick up work. With the new metro line getting underway with Metro and new underground work beginning with DPW, he doesn’t foresee any of his students having a problem finding work. Larry Marshall, 32, a southeast resident who also attends the school said he really enjoys the program. “It’s a nice opportunity and we need more students to come in!”
To find out more how you can enroll or if you would like to utilize Nelson’s welding services please contact him and the school at: Southeast Welding Academy 1103 W. Street SE (202) 610-9858 www.southeastweldingacademy.org and Nelson’s Welding, Inc. 1101 W. Street SE (202) 889-3761 www.nelsonweldinginc.com