Free job training helps women enter welding world

By Trang Pham-Bui - bio | email

LONG BEACH, MS (WLOX) - The women behind the helmets are getting ready to enter an industry that is dominated by men. This month, they're learning basic welding skills that could help them land an entry level job in the shipbuilding, aerospace, or home construction industry.

"There are 200,000 welders short in the industry today and companies for looking for skilled, trained welders.  And a lot of them are looking for women welders," said welding instructor Chevis Necaise.  "Studies say women do a good job because they're more artistic, and welding is an art, and they say they're more dependable."

This is the first welding class offered by Moore Community House's Women in Construction program.  Eleven ladies are getting free lessons at the West Harrison County campus of Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College.  They come from low-income families and each faces some sort of a personal challenge.

"We're really excited to be able to get them in the field that will be able to offer them more money, more pay, and be able to offer them a chance to live a better life," said Project Coordinator Birtha Gaude.

Abby Richardson is looking forward to a brighter future. She has worked as a welder before, but this training will help her get her certification.

"At the time I come in, it was hard because women weren't accepted in the field. So most of the guys would just let you bumble and fumble your way into learning," said Richardson. "Women are more acceptable in these fields.  It just takes determination and hard work."

Part of the training includes hands-on lessons. The women will use the skills they've learned in the classroom and go out in the field to repair storm-damaged homes or build houses from the ground up.

"I want to be an example to my daughters that they can be strong and they can do whatever they choose to do," said Richardson. "I want my grand kids to be able to say 'Well, granny went to school and she got welding and she has the ability to do construction and my grandmama's awesome!' I'm looking forward to that day."

The class started June 3rd and ends on Thursday.  Once they graduate, the women can work as an apprentice or sign up for advanced training. The program is funded by the Mississippi Momentum Wired Grant.

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