Utah State University Moab’s first welding classes got underway this winter. Four fabrication students are creating a functional project that will serve the community: metal bike racks to be installed at the new Proper Brewing brewery and restaurant, which is located on Highway 191 in the former Atomic Bar and Grill.
“Our students have really enjoyed it,” said welding instructor Chloe Wilson. Proper Brewing proposed the idea, and she said it’s a great beginner project.
“Most of these students came in with minimal or no experience,” Wilson said. The bike racks give an opportunity for students to learn and practice skills like measuring, cutting, and cross-squaring. Wilson looked at bike racks around town and spoke to bike enthusiasts to come up with the rack design, and local businesses Moab Metal Works and Curt’s Custom Welding have contributed materials. Local metalworker Kelsey Nichols plasma cut metal “Utah State University Moab” signs to attach to the racks.
USU Moab offers two certificates in welding: a proficiency certificate, which can be completed in one semester with a full course load; and a completion certificate, which can be completed in two full semesters of welding classes. The completion program costs less than $3,000 and can be finished in one year; graduates leave with a professional certificate.
“They can go and use that skill immediately out in the world,” Wilson said.
She’s also hosting a Women’s Welding workshop starting in March. Participants will complete a small project in four once-a-week sessions. The welding workshop has space for four students at a time; Wilson is running two sessions a week of the women’s welding workshop, accommodating eight participants. The spots filled up quickly—Wilson is delighted at the enthusiastic response to the Women’s Welding Workshop, she said, and plans to hold another in the future.
“The amount of interest [in welding] from women in Moab is huge,” Wilson said. “Women want to weld—I think the biggest barrier is representation in the industry.”
Wilson noted that only 5-10% of welding professionals are women, and she thinks that’s in large part because it can be intimidating to get into a field with so few women.
“I’m hoping to do what I can to fill that gap,” she said. She’s pleased to see young women feeling comfortable pursuing welding—half of her current students are female, she said.
The USU Technical Education department aims to break down gender barriers in a variety of conventionally gendered fields. The school wants to encourage more women to consider coursework in trades like electrical work, plumbing, and facilities management, and more men to consider education and careers in healthcare.
Toward that goal, the department is partnering with USU’s Center for Intersectional Gender Studies and Research to host a virtual panel discussion on gender in the skilled trades. The discussion is on March 1 from 12 to 1 p.m.; anyone is welcome to attend, but must register to join (visit https://www.usu.edu/calendar/?id=82666&audience=7 to register). Wilson will be a speaker on the panel.
The Technical Education Department is doing more outreach to get students excited about its programs. USU staff visited Grand County High School during college application week to let students know about the opportunities at their local campus. Students from both the high school and middle school will be visiting the USU Moab campus this spring to find out what the school has to offer.
Wilson has more plans in the works, too. In addition to offering another women’s welding workshop, Wilson hopes to offer a welding sculpture class in the fall. She’s noticed how the community uses welding creatively—in the sculptures along Moab’s ArtTrails, for example—and she said she’s there’s been a lot of interest from the community in that application of welding.