Women in welding: Alvin Community College program aims to bridge gender gap

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Tuesday, March 28, 2023 5:59PM
Alvin Community College about to certify 1st woman in welding program
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Alvin Community College is seeing more and more women signing up to be a part of their welding program.

ALVIN, Texas (KTRK) -- It may be a male-dominated field, but Alvin Community College is seeing more and more women signing up to be a part of their welding program.

Right now, women make up only 5% of the industry. But that's something the school is hoping to change.

Jasmine Bedwell, Jennifer Havis, and Suzanne Polk are the only three women out of 23 students currently enrolled in Alvin Community College's welding technology program.

The two-year curriculum requires more than 1,500 hours of contact welding theory and hands-on training, aimed at giving students a well-rounded set of skills to help them enter the workforce in entry-level positions.

Graduates of the program can go on to pursue a variety of professions in industries like automotive, construction, and infrastructure.

"I just think welding is super cool. Ever since watching the movie 'Flashdance' where the girl was welding, I thought that was a great skill to have," Polk said.

For Bedwell and Havis, they knew pretty early on that welding was something they wanted to pursue.

"Since I'm an artist, I like to build things. Building things with metal always seemed really cool. I like four-wheeling, so building cars and fixing cars and things like that really was interesting to me," Havis said.

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But not many women know about the welding industry or even consider it as a potential career.

The profession can often require working in harsh environments, heavy lifting, and wearing protective gear.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 5.1% of those working as welders in 2022 were women.

That's something ACC welding instructor Leroy Brigman would like to change. He hopes that one day, he'll see an even ratio of men to women in his classes.

"Some of the best TIG (tungsten inert gas) welders, especially those I encountered, were women. Their fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination, and attention to detail is a lot better than men naturally," Brigman said. "My favorite part is seeing students come in, take the class, and then completely change the trajectory of their lives."

ACC's welding technology program launched only two years ago and will celebrate its first graduating class of eight in May. Bedwell will be the very first woman to complete the certification and plans on pursuing a career as a rig welder.

"Leroy has been very helpful instructing us through the whole process and I get along with everyone in my class, so it's been very comfortable," Bedwell said.

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Bedwell, Havis, and Polk hope their stories will inspire other women to go after what they want, no matter how unattainable it may seem.

"There's a wide range of people that I have seen in these classrooms. I really feel like anybody can pick it up. It just really takes patience and practice," Havis said.

"I think as long as you're professional, it doesn't matter if you're male or female, as long as you are doing what's expected of you and doing a great job, it shouldn't matter if you're male or female," Polk said.

For more information, visit ACC's welding technology website.

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