Seizing the Opportunity: One Woman’s Mission to Enter into a Welding Career
Very few young women enter into the school phase of life with the idea to become a welder operator. While the notion of a woman welder is neither foreign nor frowned upon, when it comes to sheer numbers, the welding field remains a male-dominated classroom and workplace.
Don’t bother showing any “male-dominated” numbers to recent Arizona Western College (AWC) Institute of Welding Technology graduate Trisha Haswood. Rosie the Riveter is her inspiration (see photo), she’s a native of the Navajo tribe, and her passion today is welding.
“I’m a good welder. As good as any guy,” says Haswood.
She was introduced to welding while looking for electives at Window Rock High School in Fort Defiance, Ariz. Haswood spotted a teacher she knew she liked and thought she would enjoy any class he taught. The fact that it was a welding class was an afterthought.
Years later she still thinks Darren Wauneka is a great high school teacher, but her thoughts about welding have completely evolved — no longer just an afterthought, welding is now a career. Haswood graduated with two degrees in welding and industrial technology and four welding certifications from Arizona Western College and she is off to an apprenticeship with Phoenix-based Pipefitters Local 469. While her welding interest happened upon her by accident, her passion is unmatched.
“Once I started the high school class, I knew right away I was interested in welding,” says Haswood. “I started looking into the history of welding and studying the different processes. I was hooked and eager to learn more.”
Samuel Colton, AWC professor of welding and coordinator of the technical instructional department, says Haswood was one of the few female students he sees go through his program.
“She is gifted; a go-getter who does not take no for an answer,” says Colton. “So many women think that welding is a sweaty dirty job, and that’s so far from the real opportunities that welding offers. Trisha has seized those opportunities every step of the way.”
Trisha is one of those rare repeat performers who competed in the National SkillsUSA contests three years in a row. In 2011, Trisha competed in Prepared Speech and in 2012 Welding Fabrication, on a team of three representing the State of Arizona. In 2013, Trisha once again represented her home state when she competed in the Job Skill Demonstration competition. The contestants are required to demonstrate and explain an entry-level skill used in the occupational area for which they are training.
She chose to focus her presentation on Shielded Metal Arc Welding (SMAW).
Haswood had competed before in welding contests where her skills did the talking, but standing up in front of an audience and talking about welding was a new challenge.
“It was a prepared speech to an audience that may not know anything about welding, so I worked hard to make it interesting,” says Haswood. “I spoke about what SMAW does for industry, demonstrated how it works and how you safely weld. I think at the end of the day, my audience knew more about welding and had a new appreciation for the process.”
As a good student and practitioner of welding, Haswood has always looked forward to new challenges. In actual welding she pushes herself to get better with each pass. Developing greater understanding of the metals and the equipment means; — even though school is behind her — reading materials and digging deep into the knowledge of welding are still part of her daily routine.
You never know when the next test might come up. Professor Colton recalls an impromptu challenge that occurred while Haswood and her classmates walked the Las Vegas halls of FABTECH 2012.
“At one of the welding booths, a rep at the booth had just completed a decent-looking MIG weld when Trisha and our group strolled by,” says Colton. “The booth man spotted Trisha and quite honestly said, ‘How about you little girl, you want to give welding a try?’ With a little egging on, she stepped into the booth and laid down a bead next to that guy’s bead. Side by side it was clear that she knew what she was doing. I’m certain that rep is still hearing from his colleagues about the girl that out-welded him at FABTECH.”
Now far from FABTECH and college, Haswood is an apprentice in Phoenix with multifaceted goals. After attaining her union card, she wants to work toward becoming a certified welding inspector. Ultimately she would like to teach. She knows she is a model for other women and for a generation of young Navajo students. Haswood would like to see people think of the bigger picture.
“I want to be an example,” says Haswood. “Sure I’d like to inspire girls to get involved in welding, but I want to reach guys as well; anyone thinking about what to do for a career. I want to give back and help young people get started in the industry.”
No doubt she is already inspiring young welders through her example.