May 9, 2014
Media contact: CeCe Todd, (480) 461-4032
When Sierra Jennings’ counselor at Chandler High School suggested she
enroll at the East Valley Institute of Technology, the 16-year-old
junior had no difficulty selecting a program.
“I’m a fourth-generation welder,” she said.
As one of several female students in EVIT’s welding program, she is
considered a non-traditional student. EVIT recruits non-trads to help
create employment opportunities for future generations by breaking down
stereotypes and closing gender gaps in the workforce.
Even though Jennings comes from a family of welders, she acknowledges that she had to toughen up a bit for her EVIT program.
“It was intimidating at first because of all the guys,” she said. “You just can’t let them push you around.”
But she has adjusted well and is flourishing in the program. Earlier
this year, Jennings was selected to assist Mesa Mayor Scott Smith with
the ceremonial welding event for the extension of the Metro light rail
on Main Street.
Welding is one of more than 30 occupational training programs
currently enrolling at EVIT, a public school with two centralized
campuses in Mesa – the Dr. A. Keith Crandell (Main) Campus, 1601 W. Main
St., and the East Campus, 6625 S. Power Road – and programs at Apache
Junction High School, 2525 S. Ironwood Drive. EVIT’s programs are
tuition-free for high school students – including charter and
home-schooled students -- who live in Scottsdale, Mesa, Tempe, Chandler,
Gilbert, Fountain Hills, Apache Junction, Higley, Queen Creek and J.O.
Combs school districts. Tuition-based programs for adults are also
offered, with financial aid available.
For all students, male as well as female, EVIT’s welding program can
open doors to lucrative, in-demand jobs. The program has a strong
industry partners and a 98 percent success rate in placing students in
jobs, college or the military. Many of them go into the UA Local 469
Arizona Pipe Trades Apprenticeship program.
Rick Wieting, training director for UA Local 469, said EVIT’s welding graduates get a solid foundation.
“They are aware of all the safety concerns in our trade and are prepared to weld on the jobsite,” he said.
Once they complete the paperwork for the apprenticeship program, EVIT
welders are dispatched as first-year steamfitter apprentices.
“Most contractors like the new apprentices to weld under the
direction of an experienced journeyman because the graduates may not
have learned all the weld processes we use in the field,” he said. “So,
although they are working and learning our trade, they may not be
welding all the time.”
Apprentices usually start schooling the semester after they sign up.
They will go to class six weeks a year and earn a good wage working the
rest of the year, Wieting said. There are about 15-20 EVIT graduates
currently working as welding apprentices.
After she completes welding at EVIT, Jennings wants to go into a five-year apprenticeship.
Her experiences in the welding program have not only given her skills she can use to get a good job, but also self-confidence.
“I’m not afraid to say what I need to say, and I can work with people,” she said.
EVIT counselor Pauline Acosta said currently only about 2 percent of
workers in the welding industry are female, and the industry would like
to recruit more. Partners and advisors to EVIT’s welding program are
strong advocates for women.
Those who can do the heavy lifting and welding could earn $50,000
starting salaries. But, Acosta said, there also are opportunities for
women in welding to go into project management or work as inspectors.
“There are a lot of opportunities for them,” Acosta said. “If they play their cards right, the sky is the limit.”
To register for the 2014-15 school year, visit www.evit.com and see
your high school counselor. For more information, contact enrollment
director Melissa Valenzuela at (480) 461-4153 or firstname.lastname@example.org.