MET graduate is a true boilermaker
Andy Bell, boilermaker, will graduate with an MET degree this month.
For Andy Bell, a May graduate of the mechanical engineering technology program, being a boilermaker is more than just rooting for Purdue on game day — it's a way of life.
Bell, who is receiving a bachelor's degree, has been employed as a professional boilermaker — working mainly in the power industry — since he was 19. He followed in the footsteps of his father, Pat, who also was a boilermaker. However, at age 21, Andy decided that he wanted to take a slightly different path.
"A lot of my friends attended Purdue, so I started thinking about it myself," he said. "I've always enjoyed engineering, so I thought the MET program would be right for me."
Bell, a 2002 graduate of Milan (Ind.) High School, began the MET program at the College of Technology at Columbus. After a year, he transferred to the West Lafayette campus. He said he briefly considered studying mechanical engineering, but decided that the emphasis on applying engineering knowledge to real-world situations made him a perfect fit for MET.
While attending college, he continued his work as a boilermaker. As a member of the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers, Local 374, Hammond, he has worked in Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee and Illinois. He also is a skilled tube welder with more than 6,000 hours of experience, which gives him an edge in the job market.
"Welding is a critical part of being a good boilermaker, but you have to be a jack-of-all trades to be a good boilermaker," he said. "There are not many people from other crafts that can be a boilermaker, but boilermakers often work in other crafts when their skills are needed. We are highly skilled in what we do, and we are a proud of that. That is what I love about being a boilermaker. One day you might be welding something together, and another day you’re working with the second-largest crane in the U.S. making huge lifts."
Bell said the life of a boilermaker can be difficult, and working conditions can be dangerous, hot and dirty.
"We often work long hours, through holidays and weekends, around the clock, and have to be ready to go when a boiler comes off line, wherever it might be," Bell said.
But all of his hard work will be paying off. Right after graduation, Bell will start a job with BMW Constructors Inc. in Munster, Ind., where he will be in charge of quality control and project engineering for three NIPSCO plans in northern Indiana.
Bell said that thanks to his MET degree, he had no trouble finding a job after graduation. In fact, the offer from BMW Constructors was among three offers he received.
"The power industry is becoming very regulated, with new standards for emissions, clean air, and environmental laws," he said. "Because of the complex issues involved, power companies are wanting employees with more education. BMW liked that I had a lot of hands-on experience, but they wouldn't have hired me without a bachelor's degree."