Welding Student Keeps Her Focus and Forges Ahead
According to the American Welding Society, only five percent of welders in the U.S. are women. It is also estimated that there is a shortage of 250,000 welders nationwide and that number is expected to grow by six percent by 2020.
The Fabricator, a welding industry publication, says that the qualified-welder shortage will significantly impact infrastructure and power industries. One utility executive recently said that 50 percent of his company’s welders would be retiring within the next three years. In short, welding is a high-demand job. It’s also one that pays well. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the median salary nationwide is $36,300 per year.
If you’ve ever been around welding, you probably noticed a couple of things. First, the welders are very concentrated on what they are doing. This makes good sense as welders are exposed to high heat and electricity. Second, the work they are doing is very detailed. To some welding is more than a craft, it is an art.
This is definitely the case for 21-year-old Santa Ana resident Andrea Moreno. Moreno, a Santa Ana College (SAC) welding student, entered the welding program at age 17 while still attending Century High School through SAC’s Career Academy Scholars Program.
“I like to work with my hands,” said Moreno. “I enjoy thinking outside of the box and fixing things. Welding is a job I can give my all to.”
At first, Moreno’s mother was a little cautious about her daughter, who is the first in her family to attend college, becoming a welder. However, a visit with SAC welding instructor George Moreno (no relation) convinced her that opportunities would open up for her daughter. And they have.
In less than two years, Andrea has earned her City of Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety (LADBS) Welding Certification. Her academic goals include completing an associate degree in Welding Technology and a Welding Technology Certificate at SAC. Her longtime career goals include getting enough experience and education to become a welding inspector-a job that pays $40,000-$60,000 a year—and even a welding instructor.
When she is not in the classroom, Andrea is getting real-world experience. She completed an eight-month internship at a welding repair shop where she was one of three female welders. Then she landed a full-time internship with National Oil Well Varco in Orange. Today she is the only female welder in a company with more than 1,000 welders.
She says that it can be a little daunting being the only female. “It’s how you carry yourself,” she says. “Respect must be earned. As long as I work from my heart and focus on the job, it’s all good.”
Andrea’s passion for the art of welding comes through loud and clear. She doesn’t care that it is a job where she definitely gets her hands dirty. She loves the challenge of the work and the fact that she has to use her hands and her brain at the same time to solve problems.
“It’s essential to love what you do and I love welding,” she says.