Most welders may be men, but young women are giving the boys some serious competition in the industry. With more than 24,000 female welders in the U.S., could welding be the career for you? It’s not too late—or early—to start, as demonstrated by Hannah Grant’s recent victory at Charter College Vancouver’s 3rd Annual Weld-Off Competition. The 11th-grader from Prairie high school in Brush Prairie, Washington was one of six competitors, but she took home first place and its award of a welding machine and an $8,000 Charter College scholarship.
While Hannah’s skills are something to be admired, her nerves may also have been calmed by the presence of a female welding instructor. Hannah graciously thanked Instructor Drew Stratton at the end of the competition for her instruction and expertise and let her know how much she appreciated seeing her there.
Once Hannah is a student at Charter College, we know she will continue to make us proud like previous women welding students who took the top prizes at a local AWS Welding Competition. Charter College students, Naomi Lavender and Karrynn Anzorena Macarthur, were the only women competitors in the event, and they took 1st and 2nd place. Qualifying at Charter College, Karrynn came in 1st and Naomi came in 2nd. Then for the AWS final competition, Naomi placed 1st and Karrynn 2nd. Showing off their knowledge, composure, and skills, the dynamic duo was a proud representation of Charter College Vancouver and its 10—month Welding Program. They also demonstrated some serious girl power and are excited about welding and where their new skills might take them.
Why Choose Welding?
Both Naomi and Karrynn know they’re somewhat trailblazers when it comes to being women welders, but it seemed like such a natural fit to them. They come from families that are active in the Trades. Both Naomi’s parents work in the Trades.
“My mom is a heavy equipment operator,” says Naomi. “She’s my inspiration.”
Naomi also has two brothers in the Trades, and she says her parents always encouraged them to pursue a hands-on career.
“My parents have always taught us a good work ethic and encouraged us to go for a good career,” says Naomi, “and that was Trade School instead of college.”
For Karrynn, her mother was also an inspiration. Mom works at an aluminum extrusion plant, but it was her boyfriend who nudged her in the welding direction. “He works as a mechanic, and he thought I would like welding. Crafting has always been a part of what I like to do, drawing, crocheting,” says Karrynn.
So Karrynn did her research and found a lot of people saying good things about Charter College. She graduated high school and then reached out and talked to the people at Charter. Soon, she was enrolled.
Charter College Welding Experience
“I barely knew anything about welding,” says Naomi, “just that it was melting metal to metal to make cool stuff.” And when she started at Charter, Naomi says “there were times where it was like, wow, this is terrible. I questioned whether or not I could do it. But it takes time and practice. And the instructors at Charter were incredible. They were super helpful and encouraging. Kevin, Kyle, and Tom were always there for me, helping me with my confidence, telling me, ‘you’re going to get better.’ They were the ones who said I should try out for the competition.”
Karrynn agrees that the teachers were helpful and welcoming to everyone. She says they were great at telling her what she was doing wrong so she could improve, and also praising her when she got it right. She also really liked her fellow welders.
“We’re all on the same page,” says Karrynn, “trying to figure out what we’re going to do with the rest of our lives. But we’re also different. There was lots of diversity, older, younger. Lots of people want to work in a shop. One guy wants to do underwater welding. That’s not for me, though.”
Karrynn was working in retail at Fred Meyers when she decided to go to Charter College for Welding. And the decision has already paid off. Instead of working at a job she didn’t like, she’s on her way to a career. She just started a new job at Willamette Technical Fabricators and is excited for her future prospects. She wants to keep learning, get more experience, and become a Certified Welding Inspector.
“Every fabricator industry needs inspection,” says Karrynn. “You need at least five years’ experience, but I’d like to eventually work for a company in their quality control department.”
Naomi is also looking toward the future. She says she’s going to take some time to travel and then relocate, but she wants to work inside a shop, join a union, and maybe run her own business someday.
“I need to get a little more creative,” says Naomi, “but I’d like to do some small projects like tables, furniture, fences. And I have a welder at home so I can start my own projects.”
Advice to Women Welders
Karrynn and Naomi are happy to be welders and hope that many more women follow in their footsteps. They encourage others to join them, to open themselves to more opportunities, and to be willing to learn. “You need to be flexible and open,” says Karrynn. “You might like one kind of welding and then discover you like another kind better. The more you learn, the more valuable you are.” And both women agree that the fact that there are few women welders in the field could be a benefit to their career aspirations.
“My instructors never saw gender as a negative,” says Naomi. “They even thought it might be an advantage. We need women coming into the trades—and they finally are.”
If you’re a creative, hands-on learner, have you ever considered a career as a welder? The skill is used across most industries from auto repair, manufacturing, and piping to underwater welding. At Charter College, you can earn a certificate in Welding in as few as 10 months. Where could your training take you? Contact us today!