It took Cleveland Community College student Megan Cole-Edwards a few tries before she figured out exactly what she wanted to study. She tried cosmetology and physical therapy, but neither really seemed to excite her.
After hearing stories regaling the fun of making metals so hot they will stick together, she decided to take a stab at welding. She's now on track to graduate next summer with a diploma from the college's welding program.
"I find it fascinating. It is so relaxing to me. When I am doing it, I am in my own little world. I don't have to talk to anyone or deal with anything," said Edwards. "I am very creative, and I have all of this stuff I want to do with it."
According to the welding industry blog Welding Troop, 6% of welders nationwide are women.
College welding instructor Dana White has, over the course of a long career, worked with quite a few of them. As a college instructor, he's helped train quite a few as well, including some women.
"(Female students) aren't that rare, but they are uncommon. This is the first year I know of that we have three at the same time," said White. "The women are usually better at the detail stuff."
Joining Edwards in the fall current crop of welders in training is Wynter Smith and Brianna Corujo.
"It's going good. I like to work with my hands. In high school I took metals class and wood shop. Someone came to talk to us at school (about welding), and this seemed like fun," said Smith.
An artist living with multiple welders in her family, Corujo said she started welding as a way to try something new and different.
"I'm not used to physical labor at all. I'm not used to having to work with people and do lifting and such," she said. "I'm really enjoying it. I enjoy putting things together. While I'm not much for heavy lifting because I'm small, I enjoy the activity of welding."
While welding as an industry might be dominated by men, White was quick to praise on Monday the work the trio has done so far in his class.
"We are on to doing some pretty difficult stuff. They are all doing really good," he said.
Edwards said the gender gaps don't really bother her much.
"I've always been like 'one of the guys," she said. "And I'm really competitive. I want to make the best thing I can and outdo everyone else."
While they may not do some of the heavier lifting the job might require, Corujo and Smith said they've learned this year the actual act of welding is something almost anyone can do and do well.
"All you need is a steady hand," Smith said.
Dustin George can be reached at 704-669-3337 or Dustin.George@ShelbyStar.com.
This article originally appeared on The Shelby Star: Female students find success at college welding course