Leighza graduated the Professional Welder program at Tulsa Welding School, Jacksonville campus, in January 2017. Before enrolling at welding school, Leighza had never picked up a welding torch. So how did she get into it?
“A friend of mine is really into welding. It’s something he’d been doing for a while, and he’s really into art too. One day he asked me if I’d ever thought about going to welding school? I told him that I hadn’t, so he gave me some information and told me that Tulsa is a really good school.”
After the heads-up about welding from her friend, Leighza looked up Tulsa Welding School online and did some research into the school and the career to make sure she was making the right decision.
“I learned that there’s a really good graduation rate from Tulsa Welding School, and graduates had a lot of good things to say about the program. That’s what really interested me.”
Once she started classes, Leighza was kind of surprised to be picking up a welding torch on just the second day. Once you cover the safety aspects, you get started under the hood!
“I love welding. I mean it’s tough. It’s pretty difficult to start with, but they give you a lot of really good tools to help you get through everything.
The instructors are great at helping too; they’re awesome. They keep an eye on you, and they’re really hands-on. They’ll come and watch you while you’re welding. They’ll yell at you, “get closer, go faster, go slower” – whatever help you need. When you’re done, they look at your weld with you and explain what you need to work on. They might even have you explain to them what you think you need to work on, so you’re able to figure out things without necessarily needing them there.”
Making Mom Proud
Whenever you make the decision to go back to school to further your education, having the support of friends and family can make a world of difference. So what does Leighza’s family think of her surprise decision to become a welder?
“My family think it’s pretty awesome! My mom’s impressed; she didn’t think this is ever something I’d want to do. Growing up I was always really girly, into dolls and stuff. Now, I’m like I want to get dirty and weld…and I want to be the best. She thinks it’s so cool, and she’s really proud of me.”
Discover How Awesome You Are
When it comes to what she learned about herself in the professional welding program, Leighza surprised herself in many ways. But what was most surprising about coming to Tulsa Welding School?
“Honestly… learning how awesome I am! I’ve never really been able to do anything that I could be proud of, but that all changed at Tulsa. I’m so proud of myself for having done this. When you drop the hood it’s a really good feeling. You’re in your own little world. You don’t have to worry about anyone else. It’s all about you, and what you’re doing. Nothing else matters. It’s all about what you can do when you’re in the zone.”
The Art of Welding
Although the friend that first introduced Leighza to welding thought she might be interested in the art side of welding, that’s not where she wants to focus her career.
“I want to build things like big huge bridges or pipelines with welding. To me the art of welding is laying down each bead and making it really pretty. It’s being able to do something with your hands, chip off all the slag at the end, and realize you’ve made something really pretty. It’s a really good feeling.”
See the World
Leighza was interested in becoming a pipe welder because it’s a career path that could involve a lot of travel. That’s one of the main reasons she chose a welding career and Tulsa Welding School.
“I loved Tulsa Welding School because I knew it was going to guarantee me a great future. Traveling is very important to me, and I knew there are a lot of different opportunities for traveling with welding. There are bulletin boards with job opportunities around the school that show you places you can go if you’re willing to travel. They need welders everywhere, and I want to go everywhere! You can really go anywhere you want to go. I knew that Tulsa was going to help me get there.”
Not Too Shabby!
The earning potential for welders is widely known especially for those welders who are at the very top of their profession. The subject of money is always something that interests students and graduates, after all – money makes the world go round!
“The money is really good in welding. As a new graduate you can make anywhere from $22 an hour up to $40 something an hour, maybe even a little more. Even if you start out at around $22 an hour, it can only go up from there as you get better and more experienced. After only seven months of training at Tulsa welding School, you can have a great career when you graduate. It’s not too shabby at all! I mean you can’t beat it! Seven months of training, and you have a career for your entire life? You can’t beat that!”
Girls Can Do Anything!
Leighza was not put off by joining what is typically thought of as a male dominated profession, and she found Tulsa Welding School to be a friendly place to learn her trade.
“It is a little bit different being a girl surrounded by a bunch of guys, but everyone was really nice. The instructors obviously don’t treat you any differently. It’s a really welcoming environment. It’s just a little bit different if you’re not used to being around a bunch of guys.
I’m a really competitive person. I know a lot of girls and guys are, and this is a really competitive field. But it’s fun to be able to compete with the guys and sometimes have better welds than them.”
She believes that other women out there reading her story should not be put off by anyone who tries to discourage them from following their dream or tells them that, “women can’t weld.”
“Girls can do anything that guys can do. I think more women should be doing this. It’s hard. It’s challenging, but anyone can do it. I’m five feet tall and 90 pounds and, if I can do it, anyone can do it! There’s lots of opportunities for women to make really good money welding.”