Not many girls are encouraged to pursue welding as a viable career option. In fact, most young girls are pushed toward the teaching, nursing, and business fields. Within the last few years, however, that trend has started to change. With thousands of jobs unfilled due to the ever-growing skills gap, the manufacturing industry is turning its gaze to the women of the future. Currently, there is an endless supply of young girls with the potential, ambition, and passion to pursue the education and training necessary to claim these unfilled welding jobs. Unfortunately, many girls see the welding industry as an unwelcoming boy’s club. This notion has deterred them from taking welding classes or pursuing apprenticeships. To erase that misconception, teachers and industry leaders throughout the country have joined forces to create summer welding camps just for girls. Its aim is to show girls that they, too, have a place in manufacturing.
These camps are crucial in order to get girls interested and involved in welding. “A lot of girls that I meet are really hung up on the reservations they have about doing something in the shop. They really believe the shop is something for boys… And they feel like they don’t belong,” said Jessie Lloyd, a welding instructor at Fox Valley Technical College in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. In order to help combat this stigma, Lloyd volunteered for the school’s Girl Tech summer camp. Girl Tech is a week-long event that accommodates 60 girls. It works to eradicate sexist stereotypes by inviting girls into its science, fabrication, and welding lab facilities for guided, hands-on experience. To ensure that their girls will have a leg-up in a completive industry, Girl Tech also places a strong emphasis on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).
According to Lloyd, Girl Tech is accomplishing its goal: “The girls I’ve had in class quickly overcome reservations about whether this is something they should be doing because they realize how much they enjoy doing it… It’s important to overcome stereotypes if we are going to get them involved,” said Lloyd. The success of the camp has encouraged Lloyd to create another welding camp called Girls in the Shop. Girls in the Shop differs from Girl Tech in that it serves high school girls that are interested in welding as a career option. In addition to fostering their technical skills, Girls in the Shop also educates girls about their career options, while preparing them for a two-year technical diploma in welding.
Elements for Creating an Effective Summer Welding Camp
Lloyd is just one of many welding instructors in America creating camps designed to show girls that welding is a viable career option. While these camps vary in approach, they all share four key elements that lead to an effective summer welding program for girls. These elements are: developing local partnerships, keeping kids in school, building pathways, and providing incentives for campers.
First, these successful camps all have strong local partnerships that provide professional and educational opportunities for campers. A useful partner helps expose students to the working world and introduces potential employees to future employers. Useful partnerships also provide scholarships and financial aid for campers. However, these partnerships don’t just benefit the campers. They can also reduce the camp’s operating cost by donating funds, equipment, space, or training time. Second, successful camps also form relationships with local schools. Forming relationships with nearby learning institutions is a good way to help establish the camp as a means of keeping kids in school. Partnerships with schools can help identify at-risk students who might benefit most from the hands-on programming camps offer. School partnerships can also grant campers access to welding shops, equipment, and tools.
Third, successful camps focus on building pathways for their campers. The camps should expose students to college programs, show them how to continue their training, and help them map out their career goals. In essence, the camp should provide its campers with all the information they need to succeed. Fourth, effective camps should provide many incentives for campers to join. For example, some camps offer high school and college credits. They also allow students to return the next year in order to gain experience in a leadership role.
These four key elements are essential for the success of any welding program, especially those catering to young girls. By implementing these elements, teachers can begin to erase the stigmas that keep skilled women out of manufacturing. At the present moment, the growing skills gap threatens the entire manufacturing industry. As such, we need every skilled member of society we can get – regardless of sex or gender. With businesses and schools increasingly supporting girl-oriented welding camps, it seems that the industry is well on its way to a brighter, more balanced future.
To read more about how welding camps are revolutionizing the way women are seen in the workforce, and to learn about other welding camps across the country, check out the full story “Wendy the Welder to the Rescue” by Annik Babinski in the May 2016 issue of the Welding Journal, free with your AWS membership.
AWS Learning: For more information about welding education, certification, and new ways to expand your welding career, as well as the latest welding news, check out our other blogs, podcasts, virtual conferences, online courses, and digital tools designed to help you grow and succeed.