Science & Technology

USU Eastern Student Wins Silver in International Welding Competition

By Ysabel Nehring |

Utah State University Eastern student Jordan Packer won second place in the American Welding Society Weld Trials. (Bronson Teichert/USU photo)

Price, Utah — In March, Jordan Packer, a Utah State University Eastern student, won second place in the American Welding Society Weld Trials after placing 11th in the SkillsUSA National Welding Competition.

The competition was by invitation only and involved several levels of elimination before culminating in a final weld-off that took place in Huntsville, Alabama.

Packer, who has been welding competitively since his sophomore year in high school, including three years as Provo High School’s SkillsUSA representative in the secondary school competition, discovered the USU Eastern welding program while researching opportunities at Weber State University.

“On a tour of USU Eastern, I saw just how involved the school was with SkillsUSA, and it convinced me that this was the place for me,” Packer said. “I can say with all the conviction in the world that USU Eastern is the place to learn how to weld. If you are trying to choose from being close to home or attending USU Eastern, you should buy a plane ticket, drive across the country, or do anything in your power to attend USU Eastern’s welding program.”

Although Packer still plans to pursue a bachelor’s of science in manufacturing engineering with an emphasis in welding at Weber State, he learned that obtaining an associate degree in Welding Technology first would not only allow him to compete in the SkillsUSA collegiate level competitions but would also make him more competitive when it came time to search for a job.

“I learned that USU Eastern’s welding alumni have built a reputation for being the best at what they do, and I had to be part of that group,” Packer said.

Packer was selected as USU Eastern’s contestant for the 2021 Utah SkillsUSA welding competition where he took first place. That win propelled him to the SkillsUSA National competition, where he placed 11th, qualifying him to compete in the USA Weld Trials — the competition used to select the welding contestant representing the United States at the international WorldSkills competition to be held in Shanghai in October 2022.

After receiving the invitation to compete at the USA Trials, Packer actively practiced, competed and did everything he could to prepare, including spending close to 75 hours a week in the shop welding and mastering the four main processes of welding. All his preparation was in addition to keeping up with schooling and family responsibilities. Since the USA Trials are at the same competitive level as an Olympic event, the same level of dedication and training was required to remain in the running.

Packer's preparation paid off, carrying him through elimination rounds that reduced 50 contestants down to the top four. His competitors included former gold medalists from the 2019 and 2021 SkillsUSA national competitions — none of whom made it to the final round.

“To compete in SkillsUSA you need all the support you can get,” Packer said. “Without a doubt, the USU Eastern instructors and program is the most supportive group you will find. Not only has USU Eastern spent a great deal of program funds on material, but the instructors have put in their personal time to make sure my practice time is as efficient as possible. I have come to know all three of the instructors better than anyone in the program, and there is not a group of men I respect more.”

The Final Weld-Off consisted of four different modules with 18 hours allotted to finish the modules over a three-day period. The first module tested five separate test coupons: two open-root V-grooves (one 10 mm and one 16 mm), two fillet-weld break tests, and one open-root 6G 4-inch schedule 80 pipe coupon. All five then underwent visual inspection before being destructively tested. The fillet welds were broken, and the v-grooves and pipe were cut into sections for bend testing.

For the first module, Packer used the shielded metal arc welding, gas tungsten arc welding, and flux-cored arc welding processes, but any of the four welding processes (including gas metal arc welding, gas tungsten arc welding, flux-cored arc welding, or shielded metal arc welding) can be randomly selected for any of the five test coupons, making it so a contestant has to be prepared to weld any of the five tests with all four processes at any given time.

Module 2 consisted of welding a steel pressure vessel that consisted of a variety of welding positions and all four welding processes, which was then hydrostatically tested. To achieve full points, no leaks can be observed when the vessel is filled with water and 1,000 PSI of pressure is applied for one minute. Packer’s vessel passed with flying colors.

Finally, Module 3 was an aluminum project welded exclusively with gas tungsten arc welding, and Module 4 was a stainless-steel project welded with the same process.

“The judges are essentially looking for perfection, which is honestly unobtainable,” said Austin Welch, assistant professor of welding at USUE. “To be competitive at this level, a contestant has to have a beyond-expert level of welding skill in all four welding processes, and the scoring is absurdly strict — indescribably stricter than any industry standard that I know of. It is debatably unreasonable to expect even welding robots to have the ability to consistently maintain such tight tolerances.”

Packer ultimately took second place in the competition, joining the legacy of other USUE welding alumni, including Jordan Wynn, who took second place at the USA Trials in 2019, and Chandler Vincent, who placed fifth at the WorldSkills competition in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, after winning the USA Weld Trials in 2017. Vincent now serves as the United States Expert on the USA Weld Trials committee.

Even with the intense preparation and stress caused by the competition, Packer is glad he participated.

“Despite the hard days, this has been the greatest opportunity of my life,” Packer said. “I have come from just being able to stick two plates of steel together to now being able to keep up with the best welders in the nation. Not only that, but participating in SkillsUSA helped me to meet some of the best people in the industry.”


Ysabel Nehring


Austin Welch
Assistant Professor
USU Eastern, Welding


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