HireMeSC - Larry Philips

Larry Phillips is not your typical welder. He has paraplegia, but he will not let this stop him. Larry came
to SC Vocational Rehabilitation in February of 2019 with a new lease on life. He recently obtained his
GED and was set on developing a career that would help him provide for himself and his family. Larry
continued his education taking work readiness classes at the SC Vocational Rehabilitation Department’s
(VR) Berkeley/Dorchester Area Office in partnership with Summerville Adult Education. He attended
class every day, was often early to class and always eager to do his best. Larry progressed to onsite
training where he gained exposure to and experience in assembly, packaging and other tasks focused on
improving quality. Again, he was noticed for his attendance, dedication and persistence to get the job
done. Larry finished with a level Silver WIN Certificate showing his proficiency in math, reading and

While open to new skills and trades, Phillips worried that being a wheelchair user would limit him to
certain fields. After extensive assessment, he expressed interest in welding. Larry had seen his family
working in welding his whole life and was familiar with the trade but was hesitant to believe he could
master such an intensely physical occupation. “I come from a family of welders you could say. My
brother and cousin introduced me to the idea of becoming a welder. They recommended I learn the
GTAW process for a good chance at a long-term career,” said Phillips. Wendy May, VR Vocational
Assessment and Career Exploration Specialist agrees. “With the right physical environment and Mr.
Phillips’ positive attitude and drive to succeed, there would be no stopping him. In all my interactions
with Mr. Phillips, I have never seen him give less than 110% effort to whatever he does,” she said.

Tapping into the resources of VR’s Rehab Technology, Freedom Mobility and local technical training
schools, Mr. Phillips began to see how his dream could become a reality. He enrolled in the 900 Hour
Advanced Welding program at Arclabs Welding School in September of 2019 and with support from VR
and SC Works’ WIOA Programs he successfully completed the program in March 2020. Arclabs was able
to accommodate a workstation at the appropriate height and VR’s rehab engineers were able to procure
the protective apron, gloves and helmet he needed along with fitting his wheelchair with flat-free tires
that would keep his chair protected from the heat. Chuck Meek, lead instructor at Arclabs Welding
School saw the drive and the need to succeed in Phillips. “You can hold him down, but you can’t stop
him,” said Meek. “Once he figured out he could do this and overcame the fear of the tools and
atmosphere, he did awesome. He excelled in GTAW, found his passion and went for it,” he added.

Between Mr. Phillips’ motivation and skills we know the business that selects him will be as impressed
as his teachers have been. “I want to prove that just because you are in a wheelchair your life is not
over,” said Phillips. “My long-term goal is to get into a production or fabrication position. I want to be
successful and I want to be the best paraplegic welder there ever was.”