Altec, a local manufacturer of electric utility equipment, is partnering with Lake Superior College to offer free welding education to individuals in the Duluth area. The program, Fired Up About Welding, just completed its fourth year.
While there is a class open to men, this program gives women a unique opportunity, as welding is traditionally seen as a trade for men.
Lyndsay Barrett, the program's founder and a fabrication supervisor at Altec, started the program after attending welding classes at Lake Superior ten years ago. As the only woman in the class, Lyndsay felt like she was alone in her efforts to become a welder. Now, she helps teach and encourage other women as they pursue careers in welding and fabrication.
"This year came full circle. Altec just hired one of my students, Abby. I could not be more proud of her," Barrett said.
This year, four women and three men are graduating from the program.
"We are bridging the gender gap. This may be a small step to some, but for me and the women that have been, or will be in my (and Abby's) footsteps, it is huge," Barrett said.
In encouraging women who want to become welders, Lyndsay says this welding class offers the opportunity to be in a welcoming and accepting environment.
"This class allows women to be in a non-intimidating environment, gives them the chance to try without fear, and realize they are good at this and that there is nothing to be afraid of," she said.
During the class, students learn the basics of welding/fabrication while working on small projects. Individuals interested in attending the program can email Nicole Okstad at [email protected].