TRAVERSE CITY — Riley Scott doesn’t need a spark.
She already has a plan.
The general manager of the Empire Village Inn was one of 17 to attend Women Who Weld’s one-day Introduction to MIG Welding workshop in Traverse City on Saturday.
It was the second one-day workshop Scott has attended. The first, in Big Rapids last fall, was where the Honor resident got her first exposure to welding.
“I fell in love with it,” Scott said.
Scott, general manager at the Empire restaurant and bar, used the Traverse City one-day workshop to fan the flames further.
It’s the third-straight summer the Detroit 501©(3) nonprofit held an Introduction to MIG Welding workshop in Traverse City. The purpose of the workshop at Northwestern Michigan College’s Aero Park campus is to give women a glimpse of welding, while also raising money for the subsidized Welding Training Program for unemployed and underemployed women in Detroit.
“We’ve seen a lot of individuals that are taking the week-long class who, many times, have taken a single-day workshop like this to see if they like it, to see if it sparks an interest,” said Samantha Farr, the founder and instructor for Women Who Weld.
Scott already has signed up for a week-long intensive class in Detroit later this year. She said she wants to alter the national statistics that show only between 4-5 percent of those working in the profession are women.
“I plan on being a full-time welder,” said the Honor resident, who is targeting the summer of 2020. “That’s my next career and it’s because of (Farr).”
“She’s awesome,” Scott said during a break from the four-hour workshop. “I’m her No. 1 fan. She’s the best instructor I’ve ever had in anything.”
Finding someone who is looking at a career change is not typical for the workshop, admitted NMC welding instructor Devan DePauw, who assisted at the workshop.
“Most of the people are here because it’s a hobbyist-interest,” DePauw said. “A lot of the women will go on to do more. But most of the people in these one-day workshops don’t go on to do this as a career.”
Sheila Jones of Kingsley took the workshop for a couple of reasons.
“I’ve always had an interest in welding; there have been welders in my family,” Jones said. “My dad, cousin and uncle were all millwrights. I’d also like to try my hand at yard sculptures. I’ve been collecting metal for years.”
But the former postal carrier, for more than 30 years, is not looking at welding as an occupation.
“I’m retired,” the 60-year-old said. “No more careers.”
For Christina Trogan, working in a building alongside young women welders led her to the workshop.
Trogan is a para-professional in the film program at the Traverse Bay Area Intermediate School District’s Career-Tech Center. She said the girls in the CTC’s welding program led her to sign up for the workshop.
“It made me want to try welding because these young women are such leaders in the welding program,” Trogan said. “They inspire me.”
“Working at the Career-Tech Center, I see how important the trades are,” she added. “Absolutely, 100 percent ... especially for women because many women don’t see it as an option.”
That’s why Women Who Weld was founded, and why Farr keeps coming back to Traverse City. It’s a cause that has a wide range of support.
“I believe in the cause, what they are doing for underemployed women in Detroit,” Trogan said.
“That’s why this is a great opportunity, not only for me but to anyone in Detroit,” Scott added.
DePauw said the Traverse City workshop has the full backing of the community college.
“It’s a hell of a good organization,” he said. “I’m impressed with the things that they do. They’re doing great work and their success rate is just phenomenal. The support runs all the way at NMC, all the way up my chain of command.”
The $100 workshop has sold out every year. Farr even increased the cap on the number of students from 16 to 18 this year. She could see that grow further in 2020.
“We were at 16, but we went to the wait list and we filled in with two to make it 18, and 17 showed,” Farr said. “Next year I think we’ll be at 20 because they have the space here. Next year, if we’re invited back, I think we’ll cap it at 20.”