SHERIDAN — Amanda Craig, 28, never thought she would find herself working with metal, sparks and flame.
In fact, she never imagined that she would be working with equipment larger than herself. But as the only female student in the 2013 graduating welding technology class at Sheridan College, that is exactly where she wanted to be.
“I had never even run a power tool before stepping into the Sheridan College Tech Center,” Craig said. “The teachers were so nice and helpful, they make sure the atmosphere is positive and fun. I just had to give it my best effort every single day.”
Craig said, to her, the welding technology program at the college was a blessing.
“I was on the wrong path,” Craig said. “I was working in a dead-end job, hanging with the wrong crowd, and wound up in trouble with the law. I knew something had to change.”
After working her way successfully through six months of drug rehabilitation at a local facility, Craig was encouraged by family and counselors to apply for the program at SC.
“I didn’t even know how to apply for college. Many people helped me, and I am so thankful,” Craig said. “While in rehab, I was surrounded by people with big plans and big ideas, but many of them never act on those dreams. I didn’t want that to happen to me. If it is something you want to do, you just have to get through your fear and just do it. A lot has happened in one year since I began at Sheridan College.”
As for being the only female in her class, Craig said it wasn’t an issue.
“There is no reason women can’t succeed in this field,” she said. “It might be intimidating, but it is really cool. You don’t even have to have a foundation in welding, you can learn everything you need to know in this program.”
Welding Instructor Carl Schiner said there has been a small increase in the number of women applying for the technology programs that have been dominated by men for years.
“The past few years we have seen two to three women applying for every 40 or so men. That is encouraging,” Schiner said. “I would love to see more of a gender balance in this field. The jobs are good and are available. Amanda was highly motivated, and even though she had never struck an arc before taking our class, she did a great job.”
Schiner said that three women have graduated from the welding program in the past five years. He explained that heavy lifting used to be a limiting factor regarding the type of person that could be successful in the field.
“In industry today, it doesn’t matter who you are, if you get caught lifting 100 pounds, you are in trouble,” he said. “Technology helps us move heavy objects, so the physical demands are less.”
Craig entered the program in the fall of 2012, and this spring received a one-year Certificate of Completion in Welding. She plans to attend one more year of college and receive her associate’s degree of applied science in welding technology. She was recently hired as a welder by Vacutech, and is once again surrounded by her male counterparts.
“I feel so much better as a person when I accomplish a goal,” Craig said. “I want to be independent. I want to own a house. The welding program helped me find a new path. One more year of school to get my degree.”
Sheridan College Director of Marketing and Public Information Wendy Smith wrote this article for publication in The Sheridan Press.