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When Deborah Wright looks out her office window at the Wentworth Institute of Technology in Boston, she can see a building going up nearby—with several welders working on it daily.
That’s just one illustration of the need for workers with that specialty, says Wright, the dean of the College of Professional and Continuing Education at Wentworth. “Sometimes employers call us before students even graduate, asking, ‘Do you have any welders?’”
For that reason, Wentworth’s welding program boasts 100 percent employment for its graduates, says Liem Tran, the college’s director of new program development. In fact, students often find jobs after completing the first of the program’s five levels, with employers paying for subsequent training, he says. (Students need to complete three levels to earn certification; the two higher levels emphasize additional welding specialties.)
The field is an especially attractive option for women, Wright says. “People tend to think of construction, including welding, as a male-dominated field. And it is, but it doesn’t have to be. When I see women working in minimum-wage jobs, I wonder if they know they could be working in welding.”
Women will likely find welding physically less strenuous than other construction jobs, Wright explains. In addition, “it offers the flexibility that women appreciate—and quality pay.” Welders working for unions or private companies command anywhere from $18 to $35 per hour. Some can earn up to $50 per hour in a specialty area such as underwater welding.
Wentworth’s 15-week welding classes are geared to working adults, typically meeting two evenings per week in three off-campus locations: Madison Park Technical High School in Boston, Minuteman Regional Vocational Technical High School in Lexington, and Tri-County Regional Vocational Technical High School in Franklin.
Tuition for each class is $1,800. Students must also invest $400 to $500 for equipment and supplies, such as work boots and gloves, welding shields, and tools. Because the classes don’t result in academic credit, students aren’t eligible for federal financial aid. That factor makes even that relatively low cost prohibitive for some potential students, such as women who are single parents of small children.
For that reason, Wentworth has applied for sponsor grants that will fully cover the cost of welding training for 20 to 25 women in the near future, Wright says. The ultimate goal: seeing more women among the welders who are literally helping build the Boston area’s future.