Hard Work and Competitive Experience Have Made Ryan Fincher One of the World’s Elite Young Welders

When Ryan Fincher was a junior at Cedartown High School, he was on the winning Welding Fabrication team at the CEFGA-hosted SkillsUSA State Championships.

That was in 2014. Since then, Ryan has gone on to distinguish himself as not only one of Georgia’s best welders, but one of the most accomplished in the world.

Hours of welding practice are not a chore, but rather something that always puts a smile on Ryan Fincher’s face.

His most recent achievement: Making the American Welding Society (AWS) TeamUSA Finals, to be held December 1-9 in Huntsville, Alabama. He’ll be competing for an opportunity to represent the U.S. in the international WorldSkills Competition August 22-27, 2019 in Kazan, Russia.

Ryan is a 2017 graduate of Georgia Northwestern Technical College (GNTC), where he studied Welding and Joining Technology.

“Ryan is a very motivated young man,” says Matt Hayden, instructor of Metals and Welding at Cedartown High School and instructor of Welding and Joining Technology at GNTC. “He’s never content with good enough; he is always pushing himself to get better.”

Ryan’s interest in welding began as a teenager. He visited a welding business owned by a cousin, who helped him build a dog pen. In high school he began taking classes and developing his skills under Hayden.

He competed in SkillsUSA four years – two as a high school student and two while at GNTC. In 2017 he won the state and national competitions in welding, becoming GNTC’s first SkillsUSA national champion.

“SkillsUSA pushes you to get in that booth and practice more than you normally would, more than if you were just trying to get through a class,” Ryan says. “To me, it seems like it turns out a higher level of welder. It helps your nerves, because when you get in competition, you’re worried about how you’re going to do, making sure you don’t misread the blueprint, things like that – so it helps you get used to that pressure.

“And you meet so many great people,” he adds. “You learn to socialize with so many people in the trade. SkillsUSA made me better all around – not just as a welder, but as a person.”

Ryan’s focus of late has been working through the four-stage AWS WorldSkills Pre-Trials. As part of that process, he was selected to be the American representative at the 2018 China International Welding Competition, held July 22-31 in Beijing. Competing against welders from China, Mongolia, Korea, Russia, Australia and other countries, he won the Bronze Medal.

His experience in China will be important preparation should he advance to the WorldSkills event in Russia next year. International competition brings unique challenges, such as effectively navigating the metric system for measurements he typically makes in imperial units.

Ryan says his favorite part of welding is making new friends around the world.

Then there’s the invaluable experience of traveling around the world and building cross-cultural relationships.

“The China trip was awesome,” Ryan says. “No matter where you’re from, it’s like welders are all family. I love welding, but I have to say, the thing I enjoy most is meeting so many great people around the world – people who have helped me, people I’ve learned things from, and some who have even become good friends. I think the connections you make is probably the best part of this.”

Ryan has yet to fully embark on a welding career because the AWS WorldSkills Pre-Trials has been essentially a full-time job. He’s also spent some time assisting Hayden in the classroom at GNTC. Looking ahead, he says, “I’d like to further my education and get my welding engineering degree. After that, I’m kind of undecided – I like teaching, but I also would like to go out and weld, so I’ll probably make that call further down the line.”

Until then, he’ll keep working to be the best welder he can be. “Ryan focuses on training full-time, often six and seven days a week up to 16 hours a day,” Hayden says. “This type of dedication and perseverance is why he has been and will be successful in life.”

“You have to put in the work, because if you’re not welding as much as you can, somebody else is,” Ryan says. “It’s hard to beat somebody who devotes all their time to getting better at what they do, compared to somebody who already thinks they’re good enough. To go to the next level, you can’t ever think you’re just good enough. You always want to strive to be your best at whatever you do.”

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