Posts Tagged ‘welding’

Welding for Girls

Photo: Nicole Mlakar/Texas Monthly.
Kelly DeWitt Norman and Travis Norman’s workshop is one example of the opportunities in Texas for nonwelders to learn welding.

There are no gender specific skills anymore, unless maybe giving birth.

Cathy Free at the Washington Post wrote recently about a camp organized by the Austin chapter of the National Association of Women in Construction in Texas where girls can learn welding and other traditionally male construction skills.

“Ainsley Muller, 11, went to art camp and theater camp in summers past. This summer, she was presented an opportunity she couldn’t refuse: learning how to use a power drill, weld metal and unclog a sink.

“ ‘When my mom told me about construction camp, I knew I had to go,’ she said. ‘Some people don’t think girls can do things like that, and they’re wrong. I had a blast.’

“Ainsley was among 35 middle-school-age girls who attended a free week-long building and plumbing camp last month, organized by the Austin chapter of the National Association of Women in Construction.

“ ‘I thought she’d be a good fit for it because she’s creative and hands on, and she loves science,’ said Ainsley’s mom, Amy Muller, 50.

“ ‘I also wanted to show her that as women, we don’t have to depend on the men in our lives to handle the physically hard tasks that present themselves,’ Muller added. ‘I wanted her to know that she was capable of doing these things herself.’

“That’s the same message Taryn Ritchie had in mind in 2019 when she helped put on Austin’s first girls construction camp sponsored by the National Association of Women in Construction.

“Ritchie is a chief estimator for Balfour Beatty, a general contractor in the Austin area. She said she’d noticed over the years that few women were working at the job sites she visited. …

“ ‘I wanted to shift the narrative and show girls that jobs as carpenters, plumbers and electricians are viable options,’ she said.

“Ritchie learned that other chapters of National Association of Women in Construction also held construction camps for girls. Girls from San Diego to Chicago have put on helmets and safety goggles and learned how to mix concrete, solder pipes together and rewire lamps. Camps have also been held in Baltimore and Silver Spring, Md., where earlier this month 16 girls learned about heavy equipment, heating and air conditioning systems and power installation.

“ ‘This industry, like many, is facing incredible workforce shortages,’ said Jennifer Sproul, a co-founder of the Baltimore camp, who now runs the nonprofit Maryland Center for Construction Education and Innovation.

” ‘The only way we can overcome [shortages] is by welcoming women with open arms,’ she said. …

“Ritchie said she felt a similar obligation. ‘I thought, “We need to do a camp like this in Austin,” ‘ she said. ‘I wanted to let girls know that office jobs in construction were not their only options. Why not teach them about all of the possibilities, from building houses to plumbing them?’

“That first year, she said, 15 girls signed up for a camp held with support from the Austin Independent School District. …

“One of this year’s instructors, Jennifer Barborka, enthusiastically got onboard to teach campers a little of what she’s learned as a fourth-year plumbing and welding apprentice. …

“ ‘I was proud that every single girl completed the project, but I was even more thrilled to see how many of them were interested in my trade,’ she said. ‘Not everyone can afford college, and not everyone is geared toward that kind of learning.’ …

“ ‘I told the girls that if they were to join a union, they could get paid while they get on-the-job training, and not end up with a ton of debt,’ she said, adding that last year as a third-year apprentice she made more than $60,000.

“That sounded appealing to Taryn Smith, 14. … She became intrigued at the idea of making a decent living without taking on student loan debt.

“ ‘Going to Camp NAWIC opened my eyes,’ Taryn said. ‘A lot of the things I do in my daily life — like being on the drum line in band — are very male-dominated. Sometimes, you feel like you’re not heard or seen. Seeing firsthand that women are plumbers and electricians made me think that I could do the same,’ she said.”

More at the Post, here.

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