Female Welding Student Proving Her Mettle

November 10, 2014

Kim CummingsTopeka, Kan. - Underneath the gear and behind the mask, Kim Cummings is not your typical welder. For starters, she is a mother of three who, at 43 years old, is retraining to work in a man’s world. Kim is completing the Fast Track Welding program at Washburn Tech in Topeka, Kan., a TRAC-7 program* funded by the U.S. Department of Labor. “I had never welded before, but it felt natural to me after coming through the doors at Washburn Tech,” said Cummings. “I hope to use my new skills in useful ways that I never thought possible, and also help my family.”

Cummings’ is no stranger to physically demanding work. She feels blessed to hold her current job in disaster textile restoration. She helps families who have been devastated by fire, flood or other disasters by using her hands, heart and problem solving skills. While saddened to leave behind a job she loves, this career move is about looking ahead.

 “It is important for me to plan for retirement and become more self-sufficient. My children, ages 24, 20 and 12, mean the world to me and I want to take good care of them. Working for a company with health care coverage and retirement benefits has become very important,” Cummings said.

Cummings is the only female in the current Fast Track Welding program running from August 11 through December 11 at Washburn Tech’s Forbes Field facility. Students can earn industry certifications and prepare for a career that is high pay and high demand.

“I’m even happier than I thought I’d be. I’ve been well accepted and my peers treat me no differently because I’m a woman,” Cummings said. “I’m learning at the same rate so there’s a level of respect.”

Cummings is earning respect from her instructor, as well.  Lester Green calls Cummings the ideal student, saying she takes his suggestions for improvement and puts them into practice. “I gave her a weld test and an air pressure test and she was the only student who did not have to patch up her welds to pass. Her first bend test passed with no flaws, prompting her classmates to work harder to try and match her work. She has a great work ethic, putting equipment away, cleaning her work area and helping others do the same.”

Green says companies are lining up hire Cummings. Welders, in general, are currently in high demand but finding female welders is considered a coup.

“She’s just half-way through the program and three companies already want to put her to work,” said Green. “They are very open to hiring women and once they meet Kim, they are ready to hire her on the spot. The wage and benefit structure for many of these companies is incredible with 401K benefits starting day one.”

Cummings says her children are proud of her and very supportive. Her two daughters encourage her to use her skills and creativity to turn metal into art. Someday, her artwork could become a profitable hobby, but today she is just focused on learning to do the work and doing it well.

“Our class will be visiting different welding shops in the area and I hope to feel at home in one of them,” Cummings said. “I want to stay with that company through my retirement and become a trusted leader there. The Fast Track Welding program is exactly what I needed to spark my future and quickly start a career.”