Can women be welders?

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Many, if not most people, probably think of welding as a man’s job. Is it reasonable to think that women could also master the skills needed to be professional welders?

Women Unlimited thinks it is reasonable.

Women Unlimited is a nonprofit organization in Augusta dedicated to improving “the financial independence of Maine women, minorities and disadvantaged workers by providing training and access to jobs with livable wages for careers in trades, construction, technical and transportation industries.”

The New England School of Metalwork has worked with Women Unlimited in training programs for several years, including an upcoming collaboration on a women’s welding workshop.

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The popular assumption may be that welding is a man’s trade. Arranging a welding workshop focused on women may raise questions. Can women actually learn the skills required — and perform them well enough on a consistent basis — to earn their living as professional welders?

The answer was a surprise as we first got involved in these training programs. But our direct experience has shown the same results year after year, and the answer has become all too obvious. Yes.

The fact is that women in these programs have proved themselves to be exceptionally capable of learning welding skills. We have seen that many in these programs are quite adept at focusing and concentrating on the details and practicalities of the welding trade.

When women proceed through the introductory workshops to the professional training programs, we have seen many become professionals in a field once reserved for men. Female graduates who have gone on to become full-time professional welders are no surprise these days.

For some, welding abilities are as natural among women as they are among men.

We also know from experience that professional welders have occupations and businesses that are sustainable over time. In the years ahead, we might expect to see as many or more women than men who become professional welders.

At the New England School of Metalwork, we’re proud to participate in these programs that can create employment opportunities for women, minorities and disadvantaged workers.

Women Unlimited helps steer their members to viable careers where they can succeed, even if some people are still surprised to see changes in a workforce thought to be accessible to men only. Women can be welders. They can learn to weld as well as men do.

Women Unlimited teaches us all a lesson: if you open the door, provide appropriate training and the opportunity to learn, then the results are well worth our investment in job skills and training.

Warren Swan is the welding director at the New England School of Metalwork based in Auburn, a nonprofit educational institution founded by Maine Oxy.

Who: Women Unlimited

What: One-day Exploration in Welding workshop for women

When: Saturday, May 15

Where: New England School of Metalwork, Auburn

To register: Call 623-7576 or (800) 281-5259

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