As many know, much of the millennial generation is paying little mind to careers in the skilled trade arena. Growing up in a middle class, white collar setting, I was no exception. Since I am one of these millennials who originally had no intentions of learning a skilled trade, I wish to share my story with you of how I got into welding. Perhaps it will help show young people that you don’t need to be born into a vocation, and that it is possible to branch out from your white collar upbringings if you wish to do so.
As I mentioned, I was born into a white collar family. My father was a CPA/small business owner and my mother was a pharmacist. Needless to say neither of them had “struck an arc” in their life. It was not an ideal upbringing to learn a skilled trade. It was more or less expected of my siblings and me to graduate high school and attend college, and in the end, we all did. However, during my 8th grade year I realized that I had an increasing fondness of money. I took it upon myself to get a job for the summer and after school. I applied to a greenhouse, not knowing the type of work I would be doing. Luckily for me, I was hired into the maintenance department at the greenhouse. It was there I got my first taste of the trades, and of welding.
Throughout high school I worked there, becoming more and more proficient in my role. Although I learned how to weld and to perform other skills (and made far more money than my friends flipping burgers or mowing lawns), I still intended to go to college for psychology; thus, I never attended a technical school during my teenage years. However, when it came time, the school I chose to attend for psychological studies would not allow me entrance until the spring semester due to my grade point average. I was somewhat of a slacker academically in high school.
Due to my delayed admittance to my school of choice, I had to find another school to attend in the fall while I waited to start my study of psychology in the spring. My mom, knowing how much I enjoyed welding at my job, found a four year program at her alma mater for Welding Engineering Technology. I decided I would do it for a semester and then go to the school I originally intended for psychology. My first semester of welding sparked my interest in the field. I held welding jobs throughout college to help pay for my expenses, and now I am a welding engineer involved with pipeline construction. I am far from being the next Sigmund Freud, but am extremely happy with the way events unfolded.
If you are a young person who is considering learning a skilled trade or have wondered what it would be like to do so, I advise you to pursue it. There are many ways to go about learning a skill, and, as I have illustrated in this article, you do not have to be brought up around a skill to become proficient in it. So feel free to branch out and learn, it could have a lasting impact on your life.
Kathleen Houlihan is a leader in workforce innovation and she is the Founder of an agency that reimagines talent acquisition and optimizes the system for candidates and employers. Her company, Dream2Career, provides human-centric ROI solutions that filter-in candidates who exceed expectations in the workplace.