DCC’s New Welding Instructor Talks Power of Trades Education

photo of John Keatts
John C. Keatts

Danville Community College (DCC) announced this month the hiring of a new welding instructor, John C. Keatts.

“Welding is a field I have genuine love and passion for, and is proven in my years of experience,” Keatts explained. “I began as an apprentice at the age of 20, and once I graduated from the program I really took off and explored the world of welding. I have spent my entire professional career traveling the U.S. and the world – all because of the path I selected 15 years ago. I am the example for current students and future students; I am a great example of where this trade can take you. I have traveled the world and met amazing people and loved every single moment of it. The dynamic is different for me, and I feel that I have been called to teach others and let them grow in this professional field.”

Keatts’ wealth of experience will help him to not only teach and train DCC’s welding students, but also to advise them on career paths and industry opportunities.

“Throughout my years as a boilermaker I have obtained, expanded, and utilized my knowledge of hand welding, automatic welding, rigging, fabrication, blueprint reading, safety, and, most importantly, teaching and instructing a diverse group of new welders,” Keatts said. “I have worked in the U.S., but also internationally to construct and rebuild nuclear reactor heads, repair coal fire plants, and countless other projects.”

Keatts and his family are no strangers to Southern Virginia, and he said they were ready to “come home.”

“My family and I lived in Axton for a good portion of my life, then moved to Martinsville to aid in care of my grandfather. My wife grew up in Danville and we spent most of our time dating in Danville. Prior to my position here with DCC, when on the road traveling for work, people always ask: ‘Where are you from?’ My response was Danville,” Keatts said. “When I learned of the position available with DCC’s welding program, I immediately knew I wanted to become a DCC Knight. My wife and I have discussed ‘coming home’ and off the road several times, but nothing ever seemed to fit – until this position became available. In fact, I submitted my application on my 34th Birthday – in hopes this would become a belated birthday gift.”

“When I was offered the position, I was working on another jobsite as a weld supervisor and told my wife I was having a hard time keeping my head from wandering off to DCC. I was—and still am—excited for the opportunity and counted down the days until I started the next chapter in professional life. Every morning, I would give her the updated number of days until I would return home. My last day on the job was October 31. I drove home and started with DCC on November 1. It is still a little surreal; my three-year-old daughter still asks if I have to leave for work. It hasn’t clicked with her yet that Daddy isn’t leaving to go away to work anymore,” Keatts said. “Normally, ‘work’ for me would be six to seven 12-hour days out of town. Now, I am home at night to eat supper with my family, feed the cows, and get the eggs. This is a welcomed change of pace – even if I am still trying to get used to it.”

Keatts said he was pleasantly surprised by the DCC campus when he first visited.

“The campus is beautiful, the welding facility is state of the art, and each person I have encountered has been welcoming and very nice. Mr. [Herb] Hardy has made the transition smooth and enjoyable, and we both have a passion for the trade. We are two guys that want this program to grow vastly,” Keatts said. “I have enjoyed my time ‘on the road’ as a boilermaker and am thankful for each of the individuals I have met and worked with; they have aided in the welder and person I am today. However, as a husband and father, I wanted to take the time to be home and watch my daughter grow up. It happens very quickly. DCC has given me the opportunity to be present and not miss another first day of school, birthday, soccer game, or family dinner—and I am truly thankful for that.”

DCC is currently accepting students for its spring semester in 2020, with classes beginning on January 8. Enroll today by visiting danville.edu/apply or calling 434-797-8467.

Danville Community College is a two-year institution of higher education under the state-wide Virginia Community College System. DCC's service area includes the City of Danville, Pittsylvania County, and Halifax County. For more information about the college’s nearly 100 programs of study and career training options, visit www.danville.edu.

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Bobby Allen Roach

Acting Director of Public Relations & Marketing; Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Officer