Submitted by Charter College

Alethea Earhart has been welding since she was eight years old. But now she’s making her living doing what she loves. She has been working for Summit Trailer Manufacturing for a little over a year, since earning her Certificate in Welding from Charter College in 2017.

“This is something I can be proud of every day,” she says. “I look around the yard and think, ‘Oh my God, I built that.’”

As with other skilled trades, welding is experiencing a labor shortage as more and more Baby Boomers retire. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that employment of welders, cutters, solderers, and brazers is projected to grow six percent from 2016 to 2026. The nation’s aging infrastructure will require the expertise of welders, cutters, solderers, and brazers to help rebuild bridges, highways and buildings.

Anticipating this need, Charter College Vancouver offers vocational training programs designed to increase employment and advancement opportunities by providing students with key knowledge and skills. Both the welding and HVAC programs can be completed in less than a year, and they’re taught by experienced professionals with the knowledge, skill and passion to help students achieve their goals.

Ryan Stokes has worked in welding for more than two decades, and he has been the Lead Welding Instructor at Charter since 2015. After a successful construction career, he says he enjoys teaching people the tricks of the trade. “I like watching the students when things finally click for them, when the frustration ends and they’re able to be successful with the task at hand,” he says. “But what I enjoy most is when a student with no prior experience in welding, walks out of here and into a fulfilling job. That’s a good feeling.”

The Charter College Welding Certificate program includes hands-on cutting, welding, layout, and fitting skills that are presently used and practiced in today’s welding workforce. The program covers how the welding processes work and why certain welding processes are used. Graduates are prepared to seek entry-level positions in welding-related fields.

Stokes says welding can be extremely rewarding work. “There are opportunities in all sorts of different environments,” he shares. “Once somebody learns how to weld, there will always be opportunities.”

Earhart thinks welding (and other trades) are great opportunities for women. “We’re good at multi-tasking, which comes in handy in welding when you have to be looking at puddles, consistency and materials – all at the same time.”

Stokes agrees. “Their attention to detail is usually very sharp. The other main reason is they’re usually very fluid with their muscle control, which tends to make smooth, aesthetically pleasing welds,” he says. “Combine those qualities, and you have the potential for a very skilled welder. Aside from all of that, the industry needs more women. They make great additions to the team and become assets very quickly.”

In order to share its program with more women and girls, Charter College will be participating in the Oregon Tradeswomen’s Career Fair, taking place May 18 and 19 at the NECA-IBEW Electrical Training Center, 16021 NE Airport Way in Portland.

Oregon Tradeswomen’s annual career fair is designed to help fill the imminent gap in the labor force, and to increase the overall number of women working in trades careers. Attendees will get the opportunity to meet people working in the field, learn more about career opportunities and participate in hands-on workshops.

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Details on Charter College’s approach to career-focused education can be found at The Charter College-Vancouver, Washington, campus is located at the Columbia Tech Center and is right next to The Vancouver Clinic.

“It’s a good time to be a welder,” Stokes says. “There’s a greater emphasis on worker safety, and there are welding opportunities literally just about everywhere. It’s a fun trade to be a part of and a great tool to have on your belt.”

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