James “Ja” Packard II

I got into welding in high school when a friend of mine who was a couple years older graduated and went to work as a welder. When he showed me his paycheck I was hooked. I have 25 years experience in construction/mining. I went to work in 1997, started welding for a living in 1998 and had my first welding truck in 1999. I bounced between  construction and mining companies welding anything from stainless steel pipe and heavy mining equipment to building LNG plants and compressor stations until I started weld inspection in 2019. Welding has taken me from Great Falls, MT to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

I really like experiencing our students starting from never having touched any welding equipment before to becoming extremely talented welders. I also like seeing some of the natural talent come in and just kill it when welding. I thought I had all the tools needed to be a good welder, but once I started working at the Academy with all the other great instructors and seeing their talent, I started to pick up their techniques. I feel I am a better welder now than I have ever been. I think WWA is unique in that we won’t just fill a position with a warm body to keep a certain ratio. We search for and recruit only the best/most talented people we can find. It’s quality over quantity. 

We go after the most experienced instructors so our students can hear about and understand the way the industry works from the people who have lived it. We don’t have one instructor who hasn’t lived in a hotel, worked/welded long hours (12 hours or more 6 and 7 days a week), out of town, away from home and family, in the elements, and the worst of conditions. We all have life experiences to share with our students. Most of us will even share some of our financial mistakes from being young, making a ton of money, and living on the road.

My biggest hobby is traveling, mostly in the Caribbean. Recently I have expanded my travel plans. As of the writing of this bio, I have a month-long trip to Italy booked. I go on the occasional hunting/hiking trip in the mountains of Wyoming and I also like to day trade in my spare time.