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L&C Grad Introduces Welding to the Masses

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Article by: Jan Dona, L&C Media Services, jdona@lc.edu

GODFREY – As in many trade industries, there’s a job gap between the number of welders looking to retire and the number of qualified applicants entering the workforce. Women, like Lewis and Clark Community College’s Charlie Vonder Haar, have found great success in an industry traditionally dominated by men.

Vonder Haar, of Hamel, graduated from L&C in 2015 with an Associate in Science in Welding Technology. She’s now an adjunct instructor in that same program.

After acquiring her degree, Vonder Haar immediately entered the workforce, landing a job at Mechanical Dynamics and Analysis, where she traveled to power plants all across the country, repairing steam and gas turbine systems. She spent a month in the Dominican Republic, working on a GE Steam Turbine system.

“It’s been my proudest experience, so far,” Vonder Haar said. “There was a language gap and I was the only woman on deck. It definitely made for an interesting work environment.”

From there, she took a job with Cee Kay Supply, a welding supply company based in St. Louis. She has since embraced the opportunity to share her knowledge by joining the Welding Technology department at L&C.

“I was approached to collaborate on some non-credit welding courses to help get the community more involved in the new Weber Workforce Center,” Vonder Haar said. “I am very fortunate to have had this opportunity.”

Welding Technology Program Coordinator Travis Jumper credits Vonder Haar for the number of women who have entered the program.

“Charlie was one of the best welders to come out of the program,” Jumper said. “She has been the largest recruiter of women into the welding program, so it was a natural transition to ask her to teach.”

Currently, Vonder Haar teaches Welding for Women and Welding for Weekend Warriors, both non-credit, three-week, Saturday classes. She enjoys helping people understand a new trade skill and working in L&C’s facility.

“The Weber Workforce Center is truly state-of-the-art,” Vonder Haar said. “From our top-of-the-line virtual reality welding systems to our CWI prep class, there is something for everyone to learn.”

As an educator, Vonder Haar strives to be very hands-on.

“I try to spend a majority of the time in the shop so the students can see first-hand what they are learning,” she said. “While I do use many different online resources, I feel some absorb information much faster while in a shop environment.”

Vonder Haar sees welding as a diverse industry with many companies actively looking to hire students from programs like L&C’s.

“Our program not only gives students the job skills they will need to make it out in the workforce, but they will also be required to properly format their resumes and do mock interviews before receiving their degree,” Vonder Haar said. “With flexible class schedules, even those with full-time jobs can still attend classes.”

She wants students to understand the only way to become a great welder is through hard work and practice.

“The most rewarding part of being a teacher is when students finally understand and succeed on their own,” Vonder Haar said. “The small confidence boost they give themselves lets me know I’m doing all right as a teacher.”

Even though becoming a top-notch welder takes hard work, Vonder Haar encourages her students to stick with it.

“Don’t lose momentum,” she said. “Your courses won’t always be the fun, hands-on classes that you want, but the computer program and technical math classes will help you become a better welder and employee.”

The Welding for Weekend Warriors class will be held from 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. on Saturdays, March 13-27. The Welding for Women class will be held from 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. on Saturdays, April 10-24.

For more information on these classes or on L&C’s Welding Technology program, contact Travis Jumper at (618) 468-4931 or tjumper@lc.edu. To enroll, text or call (618) 468-2222 or email enroll@lc.edu.