Growing up, Chloe Wilson wanted to be a fashion designer. She made clothes for her Barbie dolls, and when she got older she made her own prom dress. But while she was in high school she discovered a new interest: welding. Now she’s starting a position at Utah State University Moab as the first instructor for the school’s new welding program. That may seem like a departure from her dream job, but she pointed out that both involve creativity and creation.
USU Moab’s new program offers the opportunity to earn a two-semester welding certification, with the first classes starting in January. Wilson also hopes to soon also offer workshops that cater to underserved demographics and nontraditional students.
Wilson has been welding for seven years. She was first drawn to the welding class offered at her high school because, she said, she’s always been artistic and crafty.
“I’ve always enjoyed making things, and it was just a cool new way to make things,” Wilson said.
Springville, Utah, the small town where she grew up, has exceptional welding facilities, Wilson said, and she loved the class. After graduation, she enrolled at USU Price and signed up for a welding class—just to keep her skills sharp, she thought. She still intended to pursue fashion design.
“I still thought it was going to be a hobby or a side job,” she said. But she again found she enjoyed the program so much that she earned a two-year associate’s degree in welding.
Since earning that degree, she’s worked in manufacturing and repairing automated vehicles, semi-truck and trailer manufacturing and customization, sheet metal fabrication, and shipping-container-home construction. In that last application, Wilson said she worked on one of the projects of which she’s the most proud: a six-story affordable housing complex in Salt Lake City made out of stacked shipping containers.
USU Moab program
Now Wilson is working as an instructor at the USU Price campus, and at the same time getting ready to start teaching classes this winter at USU Moab. She’s starting with three courses: Practical Fabrication and Layout, Blueprint Reading for Welders, and Beginning GTAW. (GTAW stands for “gas tungsten arc welding”—also known as “tungsten inert gas,” or TIG, welding.) Class sizes will be small, capped at four students, to allow ample time for one-on-one instruction.
The USU Moab welding shop wasn’t fully set up when Wilson and her husband moved to town in August, so she has spent the fall preparing it—ordering equipment and deciding on the layout, and even fabricating her own work tables. She said it’s exciting to design the space the way she wants it—and to be sharing her skill and enthusiasm with new students.
“I have the coolest job!” she said.
Welding is a male-dominated industry: sources say over 90% of welders are men. Wilson said she doesn’t feel like being a woman in the industry has been an obstacle for her—she’s “stubborn,” and wouldn’t let stereotypes prevent her from pursuing her interests—but she’s heard from other women who told her they were too intimidated to try welding at their high schools, and don’t see opportunities as adults.
“That breaks my heart,” Wilson said. “I want women to be represented in this industry.” She also wants the program to be welcoming to other underserved populations and nontraditional students. Classes will be scheduled in the late afternoon and evening to make them more accessible to people with full-time jobs.
Wilson hopes to offer a month-long, one-night-a-week welding workshop just for women in the spring. She and other USU staff are exploring grant funding opportunities to support the workshop.
Demand for skilled welders is high: a data website from the American Welding Society says there will be a need for 336,000 new welding professionals by 2026. Wilson said there are opportunities for welding careers both locally and nationwide, and a certificate will help students get a foot in the door in the industry.
To learn more about the program, visit moabtech.usu.edu or email email@example.com. Prospective students interested in learning more may also contact Wilson directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or, Wilson said, prospective students can drop in at the USU Moab campus to learn more—there are lots of helpful staff on site.