Women let the sparks fly in welding competition

Thirty-six participants from across the state seized the opportunity to show off their metal skills in a “Women in Welding” competition held at St. Cloud Technical & Community College (SCTCC) on March 26. The competition was sponsored by Xcel Energy and Centers of Excellence with Minnesota State.

High school and college-aged women, and some men, let the sparks fly in four different skills areas: shielded metal arc welding, gas metal arc welding, gas tungsten arc welding, and oxy-fuel cutting.

The young welders were in charge of bringing their own protective clothing, leather boots, welding gloves, safety glasses, welding helmet, and tape measure. Inside each welding booth, participants received instructions for the welding task they would be judged on, rulers, pliers, and scrap metal to practice with.

Sara, a high school student from Two Harbors, became interested in welding early on. “Welding has always been in my family,” Sara said. “So, it’s always been a passion of mine. It’s neat to see a room full of women who share my passion.”

Women make up a small percentage of the welding workforce, but a predicted shortage of welders over the next several of years puts skilled workers in high demand.

“We have offered a welding program at SCTCC for 70 years. I am so proud to be a part of this competition and support women in nontraditional roles,” said Annesa Cheek, president of SCTCC. “It’s only nontraditional until it becomes traditional. You are needed.”

After rotating through the four different welding categories, the contestants submitted their welds for judging.

A Certified Welding Inspector (CWI) from Xcel Energy and a former SCTCC student looked at weld size and the quality of the weld to determine three high school and three college winners in each skills category.

Sara from Two Harbors claimed two winning titles. “I can’t wait to become a certified welder after I graduate. Who wouldn’t want to play with fire for a job?”