The Chattahoochee Technical College Welding & Joining Technology program is not just for men. Chattahoochee Tech students Sarah Macedo, Katarina Highley-Sowers, and Ceason Eisele, who are enrolled in this program at the college’s Paulding Campus, demonstrate that this profession is for women too.
When she first became interested in welding, Highley-Sowers said that some of her friends doubted her ability to do it. “I was told I couldn’t,” she said, “and that I would never be as good as a man.” But Chattahoochee Tech welcomed her into the college’s Welding & Joining Technology program along with Macedo and Eisele. Some classroom training is involved, but the major emphasis is on the development of welding skills through actual hands-on practice in a world-class welding lab with a curriculum that matches industry expectations. The college’s Welding and Joining Technology program is offered at both the Paulding Campus and the Appalachian Campus in Pickens County.
“Opportunities exist for males and females in this profession,” said Chattahoochee Tech Welding and Joining Technology Instructor Jim Thomas. “As long as they work hard, they can all learn and gain the skills they need in order to make good money in a high-demand career field.” The median annual wage for welders is over $41,000 per year, according to recent information provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, with women representing approximately five percent of those working in this occupation. As his students work toward completing the college’s Welding & Joining Technology diploma, Thomas noted that he also encourages them to continue with their education by earning an associate degree in Applied Technical Management in order to expand their job options and open the door to more career opportunities.
Even as a student, Highley-Sowers is already putting her welding skills to good use in her job as a Shop Assistant for Man FX Destiny, a full-service special effects company based in Decatur, Georgia, which caters to the motion picture and television industries. Some of the projects she has worked on so far include ones for the Netflix television series “Stranger Things” along with the movies “Godzilla” and “Brightburn.”
“We do special effects for movies and television shows, which involves everything from blowing wind to blowing up a car, or building roll cages,” said Highley-Sowers. “We’re given concepts and ideas, and we have to make it happen. A lot of trade work goes into it. Yesterday I had to weld some things together to make some sparks happen for a car. I really do enjoy welding.”
Chattahoochee Tech Welding student Macedo noted a parallel between welding and her background in oil painting. “Welding was reflective to me of what I already knew in painting,” said Macedo. “I knew I wanted to have a career that was artistically satisfying, and where I could apply myself in a similar way. So, I just made the choice to go ahead and study welding.”
“Chattahoochee Tech was by far the more affordable option, and made it so easy to learn a career you’re interested in, so I chose them,” said Macedo. “I came in thinking I was going to be the only female in the welding lab, and I’m sure we were all really nervous about that. But it’s been awesome.”
Both Highley-Sowers and Eisele echoed Macedo’s sentiment of feeling very welcome in the college’s Welding & Joining Technology program. “I was really glad to see other girls here, because I didn’t know how that was going to go,” said Highley-Sowers. “But they’ve all been really good to us.”
“They treat us equally in class,” said Eisele, a recent graduate of Campbell High School in Cobb County. “We’re basically like family.” Eisele noted that she comes from a family of welders, and that she is interested in following them into this profession as a pipe cutter.
“There could be a lot of other women who could get into this trade, but they may not even realize that they would like to do something like this,” said Highley-Sowers. “They may need the extra push that we all got. If you put your mind to it, you can do anything.”