Women in Welding
Welding – the act of joining two pieces of metal in a permanent bond – has long been a male-dominated career. According to the American Welding Society, only about 5 percent of welding personnel are female, but that number may be growing.
More than ever before, women are breaking in to the welding trade. And it’s not just the “she-shed ideas” crowd looking for a new hobby. Women see the benefits of a career that provides steady work and good pay – and which does not require a college degree.
In spite of popular conception, welding is not always a tough, dirty or dangerous job. Not all welding takes place outdoors or at great heights. In fact, welding is a creative skill, like art. Building something you can hold in your hand is satisfying work, and can be more gratifying than pushing paper or sitting behind a computer eight hours a day.
Great Need = Great Opportunity
On the employer’s side, there is a huge NEED for women in welding – and it’s not just to rack up diversity points. Manufacturing industry leaders, government statisticians, and CTE educators all agree that a wide gap exists between the number of open positions and the number of workers with the necessary skills to fill them.
The American Welding Society (AWS) predicts there will be a shortage of over 450,000 skilled welders by 2022. This follows along with a general “skills gap” in technical industries as older, more experienced employees retire, taking their knowledge with them.
The crumbling infrastructure in the US requires repairs and replacement, and with promise of government funding, employment projections for welding jobs are positive – there is a shortage of welders. And because welding often must be done on-site, these jobs are not likely to be exported overseas. With all these factors in play, and more women being trained in welding every day, the US will continue to see more female welders building airplanes and working on bridges, highways and oil pipelines.
Women Wanna Weld
Getting women in the welding business hasn’t been easy in the past but now new initiatives are being pursued. There are exclusive classes for women, many taught by female instructors. Also, there are now several high profile women who have brought more attention (and great skill!) to the welding industry. One of those women is Jessi Combs, a television and off-road racing star who got her start in an automotive fabrication training program at Wyoming Tech (click here for more about Jessi’s career).
In the past few years, Jessi has been joined by other women making a name and a career for themselves in welding and metal fabrication. It turns out there’s a large community of women welders on Instagram, following YouTube star Barbie the Welder, and Samantha Farr, who founded the Detroit non-profit Women Who Weld, and many others.
What You Should Know
Most welding careers don’t require a four-year college degree, but you do need training, either through a high school cooperative education program, privately owned welding school, a vocational-technical school, or a local community college. Manufacturing companies and unions also offer paid apprenticeships.
To help pay for training, you can apply for specific scholarships for women in welding, as well as a number of general scholarships through the American Welding Society (AWS), and other groups. Organizations like Women Who Weld, offer free or low-cost workshops, programs and classes for women taught by female instructors. Community colleges often offer welding classes and community metal shops like LA’s Molten Metal Works have both classes and open shop hours to practice.
Other organizations that are specifically tailored to teach women how to weld include:
- Women in Welding program by Chicago Women in Trades
- Latinas Welding Guild in Indianapolis
- Weld Like a Girl in Arizona
- Ironworker Women (nationwide)
According to Samantha Farr, sexual harassment of women in the welding field can still be an issue, though with more women entering the field and the awareness generated by the #MeToo movement, this should decrease. Women Who Weld teaches students how to respond to harassment, report & document incidents, and protect themselves.
Welding is a skill that can take you many places – building construction, metal art sculpture, furniture manufacturing, welding inspection, training & education, auto repair – even working on the Space Shuttle for NASA! You can use welding as a way to finance college without debt. And as you develop your welding skill and gain specialty certifications, your take-home pay can dramatically increase.
Like Jessi, Barbie, and Samantha, women also can use welding skills as a jump-off point to many other careers, such as educator, business owner, project manager, or welding engineer. A career in welding is a great place for women!
Contact Industrial Metal Supply for all your welding equipment and supplies. Visit us online or at one of our six locations in Southern California and Arizona.