Missouri State University-West Plains hosts Women in Welding program, looks to the future

WEST PLAINS, Mo. – Eighteen women have completed a 40-hour training introduction to welding at Missouri State University-West Plains, and the campus hopes to grow the program for the future of female welders.

Director of Workforce Development Sheila Barton says when a one-time $30,000 grant came across her desk from the Missouri Loan and Scholarship Foundation, she realized the money could be used for a Women in Welding program. The university had previously held meetings about the possibility of such a program. 

Barton told The Heartlander welding is a non-traditional field for females, but she thought the idea had potential. Once the program was in place and ready to go, Barton saw so many applications that she was forced to turn some applicants away – due in part to the fact the grant made it possible to admit students free of charge.

Each student who finished 40 hours of training received a certificate of completion to provide to potential employers. Camcorp, an industrial company in nearby Willow Springs, has agreed to take a look at graduates from Women in Welding.

But Barton says some students planned to use their new skills for their current businesses or personal farm work.

“We used the same curriculum as we do for our full-time credit students through Lincoln Electric,” Barton said. “We are a Lincoln Electric educational partner school. I think there are many places they could use their skills once they have completed the program.”

Yvonne Bowers, technology assistant at PACE Industrial Science Center at MSU-West Plains, joined the Women in Welding classes and says some students wanted to learn stick welding while others needed to learn Metal Inert Gas welding for the specific careers or projects they were learning toward. 

“It gives them a jumping-off point and gives them something they can start with,” Bowers said. “I was pleased at how enthusiastic the women were. One of them was in nursing and wanted to be a welder. She wanted to totally change her career to something else. Some of them were just naturals – it looked like they were meant to weld.

“Not one of them was like, ‘I don’t like this.’ Once they got started, they were eating it up and loved it.”

Barton and Bowers say they feel the program was a huge success and would like to see Women in Welding become a permanent program at MSU-West Plains. Barton says she plans to apply for an additional grant every year, but will look for other avenues to keep the program alive if the university doesn’t receive extra grants. 

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