JACKSONVILLE- Many across the country and here in Jacksonville are struggling to find a job. But there's one sector of the economy that has huge demand for workers. Employers need welders. Ninety five percent of the students training to be welders at Tulsa Welding School in Jacksonville are men. The other five percent are women.
Paula Miller couldn't find a job as a secretary or cosmetologist so she says she decided to dive into the male dominated world of welding. "This was and is my opportunity to get back into the workforce," said Miller. She has good reason to be optimistic. A recent survey showed 200,000 welder jobs will be created over the next few years due to current welders retiring.
Valerie Day and her 18 year old daughter Shelby are taking the seven month course together. "She got enrolled first and she started talking about it and it sounded like a really cool thing to do and I wanted to try it and I love it," says Shelby Day. Shelby's Mom says it will be her first career after being stay-at-home Mom. "I always wanted to learn to weld and I want to travel. I don't want to stay in this area. I want to bounce around. I want to be able to bounce around. So this gives me that opportunity," says Valerie Day,
One day out of the five each week Tulsa Welding Students head to the classroom. Heather Diaz had to convince her mom she made the right decision. "My Mom wasn't so sure of it at first because I'm a woman and a welder. But I reassured her that more and more women were welding. It worked out good," says Diaz.
There are about 500 students at Tulsa welding school and only about 20 are women. But school officials say the ladies may have the advantage. "They have more patience. They relax a little bit more and so we actually seen it that women do better than men," says Tulsa Welding School Director of Training Jack Dulls
And fitting in with the guys? The ladies say it hasn't been a problem. "I have been in the military. It's predominately male oriented there too. Here they guys are just like a bunch of brothers, says Miller.
Training at Tulsa Welding School lasts seven months. It costs almost $17,000. Financial aid is available. School officials say a new welder can expect to make between $30,000 to $40,000 a year.
First Coast News