Garage Bound Owner and Fabricator Michael Brandt Mentors Young Welders
Welding helped Michael Brandt turn his life around. Now the Garage Bound, LLC, owner helps build welding skills in his community.
Building new welders
As a self-taught welder who honed his skills through practice, trial and error, and advice from others, Michael Brandt now makes a point to mentor young people and encourage their interest in welding.
Brandt owns Garage Bound, LLC, a custom fabrication shop and mobile welding business in Chattanooga, Tennessee. His path to a welding career was untraditional and involved no formal training. He first stick welded in his grandfather’s workshop at age 9.
“I remember having my welding hood on, and I was in my own little world under that hood,” Brandt says. “It was really kind of an escape for me with what I was going through in my life.”
But he didn’t pick welding up again until years later as an adult, when he wanted to build a rat rod bicycle as a project with his son. He began teaching himself to weld in 2008 and eventually bought a well-used Miller® welder from a friend. As Brandt developed his skills, that hobby became his passion and eventually his career. He opened Garage Bound in 2015.
Brandt now uses his 6,600-square-foot welding shop to help young people learn about the trade and develop their skills. He also sometimes works with adults who have an interest in welding.
“My life hasn’t always been in the great place where it is now,” Brandt says. “It’s just really inspiring to me to be able to give back, to help change the future in a positive way versus the negative way that I used to.”
He also sees mentoring and training young people as a way to boost the welding industry, which faces a skills shortage as it struggles to attract and train new welders.
“We have a huge shortage of people for the skilled trades in our industry,” Brandt says. “Every time I get to speak to kids, I tell them all the cool things that can be done — from metal art to industrial stuff — and how rewarding the industry has been to me.”
Earning a welding merit badge
Local members of the Boy Scouts of America typically visit Garage Bound once or twice a year. The scouts can earn a welding merit badge through a two-day class at the shop, which touches on MIG, TIG and stick welding as well as flame torch cutting, plasma cutting, and safety and PPE basics. Local volunteers and sponsors help with the event.
“There is a lot for them to do, and we get to expose them to a lot more than just one welding process,” Brandt says.
Each welding station has a trained adult, so the students have direct supervision and oversight for each activity.
“On the first day they rotate through all the stations and learn about the different processes,” Brandt says. “The second day they get to build whatever they want or revisit any station they had interest in. I think it opens up a whole new door of life they maybe didn’t think about before, and that’s important to me.”
A welding apprentice
Those classes with the Boy Scouts led a young welder to a mentorship with Brandt. One student who first visited Garage Bound as a Boy Scout several years ago has since been working as an apprentice to Brandt. The local high schooler comes to the shop on the weekends to work on his welding skills.
“I call Ethan my little rock star. On that first visit he was so engaged and interested in everything we were doing,” Brandt says. “Any time I get to spend with him is a genuine pleasure. I’ve never found anybody with that much attention to detail.”
Building new welders
After struggles in his life, Brandt is happy to give back to his community — and his industry — in a positive way.
“I just try to expose them to what we do, so they know the options of a career in fabrication and welding,” Brandt says. “That’s my small way of giving back to the industry that’s really taken good care of me and that I’m passionate about, and I want to see it succeed in the future.”
Miller is excited to provide contest and scholarship opportunities, including Miller machines and a $5,000 scholarship! Learn more and enter for a chance to win today: https://www.millerwelds.com/buildingawelder