SIERRA VISTA — Some were there because it’s a trade that ran in their families. Others just wanted to learn a new skill to use in their free time.
The group of about 20 women gathered in the welding department of Cochise College all had their own reasons for attending the Women in Welding Workshop on Saturday and Sunday, but there was a recurring theme of wanting to learn how to get things done.
From a desire to learn how to fix broken horse corrals to exploring career paths, the group comprised diverse backgrounds, ages and skills.
Tricia Russell attended to support her daughter Katie.
“I am here in large part because today is my daughter’s birthday,” she said. “She emailed me the flyer and said this is what she wanted to do for her birthday and I’m excited about it.
“When I was a kid, my dad would teach me stuff around the house ... (how to) change oil, stuff like that, so this is just another cool experience.”
Katie has her heart set on a career in engineering, so the chance to learn about welding intrigued her.
“I was really interested in this because I plan to go into engineering later on in life,” she said. “I’ve never known how to weld and honestly it’s a great opportunity for me; it will for sure help me in my career path.”
The event was the first women’s welding workshop held by the college and was inspired by one of the college’s own success stories, Hope Struse.
Struse is currently a part-time welding instructor at the college, soon to be full-time, and got her start in welding as a teenager.
“My dad first showed me how to weld and I think more dads should show their girls how to weld because once he showed me I loved it,” she said. “Cochise College has been really good about bringing me up with the environment they’ve created here — what they had to offer, how they pushed me, got me to where I am now.”
Technology department chair Scott Brown said Struse’s journey and success, as well as his own wife Stephanie’s passion for welding, inspired him to create this event.
“What gave me the idea was having Hope, she was the one who made me think we needed to try something different,” he said. “She’s very unique, great at what she does and by having her it helps generate new ideas.
“We have some of the best area welders here today with these girls and women and they’re sharing their story with them to help show them that they can do it.”
The workshop lasted Saturday and Sunday, starting with a class on the basic methods and procedures of welding.
After learning some safety tips, the ladies got into the lab, were provided welding and safety gear donated to the college by Miller Electric and Lincoln Electric.
Participants received demonstrations from instructors Struse, Stephanie Brown and Gina Santaniello, a sales representative from Phoenix Welding Supply and adjunct welding instructor at Pima Community College.
Afterward, they had the opportunity to try it themselves.
Brown said the class filled up quickly and they will host another workshop to accommodate people who were placed on the waiting list.
“With the response we got, it’s great, and over and beyond what we thought it would be,” he said. “Now that we see what might be a niche for the community, for women, we’ll see about moving forward with some more in the future.”
He is hopeful participants in the workshop are encouraged to continue their interest in welding and that this can be a great career for women.
For Struse, she hopes to see more women enter the welding industry and that the workshop ignites the spark for participants.
“It was to see if we can get more girls into welding, more females into welding, to introduce them to it,” she said. “It was such a good experience for me, maybe it can be a really good experience for everyone else.”
For more information on Cochise College’s welding program, visit www.cochise.edu/welding.