Eatonton, Ga. – Putnam County High School (PCHS) dual enrollment student, Annabell Sapp, put new-fashioned welding skills to the test for the 80th Annual Senior Beta Convention held in January for Georgia’s high school Beta clubs, winning 1st place in a competition for a technical subject largely dominated by her male counterparts.
Sapp assembled metal roses for her submission to the Sculpture Division 1 competition, a skill learned in her Welding Studies course at Central Georgia Technical College (CGTC).
“I enjoy designing artwork and then creating that art with my hands,” Sapp said. “The competitive side adds to the experience because I get to see how other people took the same guidelines and interpreted them in a completely different way,”
According to her instructor, Aaron Clark, its Sapp’s drive for expertise that led to her own victorious interpretation.
“Annabell has demonstrated a desire to gain all the knowledge that she can about the welding craft,” he said. “She is very anxious about progressing through her studies and utilizing her profound skills in the welding field.”
Clark said the course offers young people a chance to gain a college education and sets the pathway for a lucrative career in the welding industry.
Where welding is lucrative for the general young person, it is even more worthwhile for the young woman. What makes Sapp’s award more stunning is her place in a competition, course and potential career field deemed non-traditional per the Technical College System of Georgia (TCSG).
The CGTC Office of Special Populations works with students enrolled in programs in which one gender makes up less than 25% of the total number of workers, providing career support services in an effort to alleviate barriers that hinder successful completion of courses and employment.
Just five years ago in a report from NBC News, the American Welding Society projected the need for more than 111,000 new welders for 2019 and that in 2014 female welders comprised only 3 percent of the field. The article adds that the hourly wages for a welder can start around $15 an hour.
More recently, “efforts to attract women to welding have had underwhelming results,” according to an article from The Atlantic in August 2018. There was an attempt by welding organizations to “destigmatize” the industry, and even mentoring programs for young women to spark an interest, leading to only 4 percent of welding trades filled by women.
While more and more colleges, including CGTC, have looked for ways to encourage women into non-traditional career programs and hired relatable female instructors, there appears to be a strategy that The Atlantic suggested made headway; courses that are “more affordable and take less time to complete”.
Dual Enrollment at CGTC allows high school students the opportunity to complete occupational courses leading to certificates and diplomas tuition-free over the same span of a high school semester, and their completion occurs well before they are “supposed” to be in college. When approved for Dual Enrollment, a student’s full tuition, fees, and the cost of textbooks are covered.
Overcoming the perception of technical trades as a second-tier option for education is challenging enough. Combine it with being the lowest tier option for women, but also adding a healthy dose of high school expectations, and it creates the non-traditional trifecta.
Should Sapp choose to make welding her profession, she definitely has the jumpstart to a masterpiece of a career. For now, the award earned Sapp a place in Beta Club’s Nationals in Oklahoma City in June.
As Sapp put it, the guidelines are the same, now it is up to her to interpret them.
For more information on the Welding program at CGTC visit, www.centralgatech.edu
Information on the Dual Enrollment program at CGTC is available at www.centralgatech.edu/highschoolintiatives
Photo: Annabell Sapp shows off her metal roses that earned her 1st place in the 80th Annual Senior Beta Convention in January.