Women make up just five percent of the welding workforce, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. But a new generation of women welders is working against that trend, including OTC Career Center student, Bethannie Novak.
The 17-year-old Fair Grove High School junior says she didn’t set out to pursue a career in a male-dominated industry. She simply likes the work.
“Welding is one of those things that’s easy and challenging at the same time,” Bethannie explained. “It comes naturally to me, and I love getting better and better with practice.”
Bethannie credits her high school agriculture class for sparking her interest in the field. But, after welding a fireplace and some hay balers, she was ready to tackle more challenging ventures. That’s when she learned about the OTC Career Center, a specialized program for high school juniors and seniors.
“Career Center students spend half of their day at high school, and the other half at OTC,” Bethannie explained. “If I keep it up, I’ll be able to graduate high school and college at the same time.”
Thanks to the Career Center, Bethannie spends 8-10 hours a week honing her craft in OTC’s welding lab. She recently started taking online classes through her high school – a move that gives her more flexibility to train at OTC.
“I try to drive in at least twice a week more often than needed to get more practice time in,” she explained. “By doing this, I can weld an additional 3-5 hours per day.”
Bethannie says she’s keeping her career options open at this point. But she’s thought about becoming a pipeliner — a lucrative and highly sought after job in the industry.
Pipeline welders join and repair metallic pipe components as part of the construction of buildings, vessels, structures, and stand-alone pipelines. They use a variety of welding processes and equipment, in all sorts of industrial, commercial, and construction environments. Because pipes are often set up in fixed positions and situated in ways that make welding difficult, these workers are among the most highly skilled and in-demand welders.
“It’s every welder’s dream,” Bethannie said, excitedly. “I wouldn’t mind the early mornings and late nights – I’d get to meet so many people, especially if I decide to travel. Plus, it pays really well.”
Whether she lands a job on the pipeline or pursues a different career in the field, Bethannie is part of the next generation of women changing the face of the welding industry.
About the OTC Career Center
The OTC Career Center is a specialized program for high school juniors and seniors. Eligible students spend half of their day at their designated high school and the other half at OTC taking college courses in one of more than 20 different technical education programs. Many students can earn up to 40 college credit hours by the time they graduate high school. Career Center tuition is paid for by participating high school districts. Learn more about the OTC Career Center here.