Not Your “Typical” Welder: Women In The Trades
Let’s be honest – how many of us girls grew up dreaming of being a mechanic or a welder? The answer is probably not many, and if you did you probably didn’t tell anybody because of the possibility of them thinking you were weird. When I was little I first wanted to be a marine biologist; I loved animals and wanted to work with them very badly. Then my life goal changed from a stunt car driver to a photographer to a mechanic and finally a welder.
One of the things I was most excited about going to high school for was that I was now able to take the auto mechanics and construction classes. I took them all through high school and loved every minute of it. I learned, fixed and made things that a lot of people didn’t. How many of you can honestly say you are comfortable with changing a flat tire on your own? I can say with all honesty I am and that’s because of my awesome auto teacher. My technology teachers not only gave me the skills and knowledge about their trades but also the courage to love the trades; to not be scared of trying something totally out of my comfort zone and to not care about what people think.
I got the smart remarks in class – “Girls can’t do that” and the classic, “Don’t break a nail!” Taking those courses gave me the courage to pick something not many girls pick for a college program – Welding Technician. I knew two things that I wanted for sure out of what I picked for a program. I wanted to be able to get a job and I wanted to make money. I know those are not the best reasons for someone to pick a program, but they were honest. I had originally wanted to be a mechanic because of how much I loved my auto class but I soon realized there were a lot of mechanics and not a lot of jobs. So I had cut up an exhaust pipe about two times in auto with an old oxy-acetylene torch and I knew welding was an in demand job, so I decided on being a welder. The only knowledge I had on welding was what I learned from those two experiences using the torch, so not a whole lot.
I remember showing up for my first welding class and them telling me that I would need safety boots, safety glasses and a welding helmet for tomorrow. The first thing I thought to myself is, “What have I done?! I have gotten myself into something I can’t handle, I know nothing about welding! This is a horrible idea”. Then it got worse after I got all my equipment and they asked me to actually weld something. I don’t think I have ever sweated that much for a school assignment and it wasn’t from the heat of my torch. But with practice, some really great teachers and perseverance, I got the hang of it and now I am actually a very good welder. I am able to weld in shielded metal, arc welding in flat, horizontal and vertical positions. I can use gas metal arc and flux core arc welding machines and I am learning tungsten arc welding at the moment.
For those of you out there wondering what kind of woman I am, I would say I am not your typical looking welder, but then again isn’t that what we are trying to change? The notion of what the “typical” welder looks like? So this is what the typical welder looks like – a petite 19-year-old woman, who stands at five feet and two inches, has a boyfriend and loves to go shopping just as much as anyone. The moral of the story is look at trades when you are deciding on college programs – any trade! Believe me, it’s a rewarding experience that is challenging.
If I can do it, you can do it.