It is no secret that when people envision welders, they typically envision men performing intense, taxing jobs. It is true that the majority of welders in the United States are men. However, a growing number of women are acquiring the necessary education and training to pursue this lucrative career path. April Darnell, 19-year-old Collinwood resident, is one of two female students who are currently learning welding at the Wayne County Career and Technical Education center in Waynesboro, TN. The other student has chosen to remain anonymous.
There are over 418,659 welders currently employed in the United States; approximately 7.5% of all welders are women. This percentage will continue to increase over time. Society as a whole is abandoning the notion that the only feasible option for kids to receive a credible education is to attend a four-year college or university. Furthermore, with nonconforming gender standards on the rise, women are less frightened to venture into male-dominated fields.
When prompted, Darnell stated, “I just started welding this August. Honestly, when I was in middle school, I used to want to be a mechanic for the longest, and then I saw some people welding some roll cages together for some cars. They were TIG welding (TIG stands for tungsten inert gas welding, also known as gas tungsten arc welding), and they had the prettiest weld beads I had ever seen. After I saw that, I got into TIG art, beautiful art made by welders, and I have wanted to do welding since.”
The course that Darnell is taking is dual enrollment through TCAT Crump. She receives high school and college credits simultaneously. If she or others enrolled in this course graduate high school and decide to go to TCAT to finish their training, they can pick the course back up at TCAT; they do not have to start all over. Each student has an individual portfolio that tells TCAT instructors where they left off in the course. The course is a 16-18 month course but it is self-paced. Students can finish the course as quickly or as slowly as desired as long as it fits within the allotted time frame.
Darnell’s welding instructor, Jamie Benson, was extremely complimentary of his student. He has only taught three female students in his career. Benson said, “She’s in the top of my class, actually the top two in my class right now. She has advanced very rapidly and takes very great care in her work. She is very meticulous. She’s on her 3G, an aggressive SMAW welding test, right now, practicing as much as she can in order to pass. Each hour she is in this course is TCAT credit. If she continues this course the way she started it, she’s going to do great.” Darnell hopes to start at TCAT Crump in June.
Darnell gave a closing statement: “I never really thought I would be any good at welding, so when I tried it, I immediately fell in love with it and decided, ‘That’s what I’m doing. No other questions.’ When I get my certifications, I want to start on the pipeline for four or five years to get necessary experience. Then, I want to take it under water. You can weld on naval ships. There is all kinds of stuff you can do. It is probably one of the most high-skilled and dangerous jobs in the world.”
Darnell’s goal is to be the best welder on land and water. When asked to define success in her eyes, she said her idea of being the best is to not have anyone doubt her. She added, “If I am able to wake up and do this every day, I’ll never hate it.” Darnell will be an excellent, successful welder. Her passion for welding is unmistakable, and she inspires girls and young women across the county to venture down this career path.
For more Wayne County News content, click here.