GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KKCO) – Interest in welding in our community has grown so much that Western Colorado Community College has expanded its welding program to meet the needs. Last year they added courses to Fruita to accommodate growing interest in the area.

Stephanie Ward, a welder and recent WCCC graduate, said she was interested in the trade, but the opportunities never arose to learn to weld.

“Welding was something that always eluded me being a very male-dominated profession,” Ward said.

She worked in international shipping but wasn’t happy, so she decided to go back to school.

“I was just looking at the WCCC website and saw the welding schedule,” Ward said. “It always intimidated me, got away from me, I’m just going to go for it.”

She signed up in July 2021 for classes starting in August last year.

“Before classes started, everything was supposed to be at WCCC,” Ward said. “The vice president contacted me and told me that we were expanding the program. There are so many interested students that there is a waiting list. We are going to expand the program and open a class at Fruita, would you like to be part of it? Of course since I live here in Fruita, absolutely! Saved me having to drive to Grand Junction every day.

“Student interest has been phenomenal,” said Brigitte Sundermann, WCCC’s vice president of community college affairs. “Last fall, we realized we had a waiting list. So we looked immediately if one of our partners was able to help us with a lab space. Fruita Monument High School was able to do this and was able to make it more easily accessible to students in the Fruita area.

Stephanie said her instructors are all masters in their field and big advocates for students.

“Instructors always sought to ensure that you were confident and knew enough that you would be employed upon completion of your intended certificate program,” Ward said.

During the program, Stephanie found a local welder in Fruita on Instagram. After talking, he contacted her to develop his business and offered to join his team.

“I was blessed and very lucky to have found the job after just one semester,” Ward said. “Taking a chance on things goes a long way.”

Stephanie said all of her instructors went out of their way to make sure she understood what she was doing and helped her gain confidence as a woman in the field. She says she still carries those lessons with her in her work. She has this message for girls interested in welding.

“The instructor said boys be careful, those girls are going to kick you welding,” Ward said. “It was the best thing I could have heard. Any teacher will tell you that women make better welders because of our patience and attention to detail.

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