The sparks are flying within the Secondary Technical Education Program’s welding program – and not just behind the workstations’ protective curtains.
STEP students are not only working toward their high school diplomas, they’re also finding a passion for a career in the trades. And that passion has resonated in the largest female class the STEP welding program has ever seen.
“[Female enrollment] went from zero to five,” said Bob Sand, welding teacher at STEP. “It’s amazing.”
Heidi Ashmun, Gabrielle Dobson, Suzy Lindberg, Alison Reiter and Ali Steinhauser are the five women who entered the program at the beginning of the school year.
“I took [welding] as a filler class,” Dobson said. “But I ended up really liking it.”
“I took it to get away from all the girls,” Lindberg added with a laugh. “And they all ended up in here.”
STEP bills itself as a high school in a college setting where students in Grades 11 and 12 can explore hands-on-careers while earning both high school and college credit. For those in the welding program, students can also work toward certifications in a variety of different areas.
“[A certification document] proves to employers that the person with it has the skill to do the work they require,” Sand said. “Typically students can get four or five certifications [while in the STEP program].”
Ashmun passed her aluminum sheet metal certification test, and Reiter is working toward her structural steel certification. All five girls said they plan to pursue a career in welding.
“It’s addicting,” Lindberg said. “You just want to keep getting better and better.”