ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. (AP) - Diana Matykunas and Jennifer Nardone made a decision not many other women make in this day and age. They got into welding.
Welding is the joining together of materials by causing surfaces to reach their melting points and uniting them by hammering, compressing or otherwise. It’s a discipline marked by high heat, heavy metal and the potential for danger.
It is also misconceived.
“You’ve gotta get the (idea) out of your mind that there is a man’s world or a woman’s world,” said Matykunas, 46. “This is anybody’s world and women can actually dominate if they get beyond that initial hesitation.”
After her kids graduated from Bartram Trail High School, Matykunas told her husband she was done being a stay-at-home mom. She enrolled in the welding program at First Coast Technical College in February.
Don Modesitt, welding instructor at FCTC, said women working in what are thought to be traditionally male-dominated trades is nothing uncommon.
“Think back to World War II and the building of ships and everything for the war effort,” he said. “That was pretty much all women doing that work.”
Nardone, 21, started in June and came to class on the first day wearing shorts and a tank top.
“I definitely didn’t know what I was getting into,” she said. “There’s so much depth in welding that people don’t know about.”
Nardone had gone to the University of Central Florida to pursue a degree in nursing but decided it wasn’t for her. She saw a commercial for FCTC and was surprised to see the selection. Welding stuck out to her as something she wanted to try.
“I love making things and creating with my hands,” she said. “I eventually want to have my own business, not just welding, but kind of as a ‘fix-it-all’ for cars or planes or houses.”
She said welding would also help her pursue art using industrial materials. But in the meantime, it isn’t all just fun and games.
“It hurts when you get burned, but you get used to it after a while,” she said.
Each weld is different and requires a different position, angle and technique. A lot of the learning process is trial and error.
“It’s like a musical instrument,” Matykunas said. “… Some songs click faster than others.”
Modesitt said welding requires having a plan going in and executing it with precision. Even natural talent can fall to the wayside without the know-how.
“It takes academics to do this,” he said, adding that Nardone and Matykunas have excelled in class.
“I think because they do such a good job, there’s nothing to tease about,” he said. “It’s more like the guys are trying to catch up.”
Welding can provide students many different avenues including testing and inspection of materials, engineering and equipment sales.
“The ability it takes to do this takes time. It takes hours of practice,” Modesitt said. “… This is a mind, body and muscle kind of thing.”
Students in the welding program are typically in class from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. and put in about 30 hours a week.
The program takes 1,170 hours in total.
Graduates receive a Certificate of Completion as well as any specific certifications they choose and successfully complete throughout the program.
“It breaks the ice going into the business without work experience,” Modesitt said, adding that the certifications meet the requirements of both the college and the state.
Being able to read a blueprint is another point of emphasis in the program.
“When companies find that you can read blueprints quickly, you get more work quickly,” he said.
Since starting the program, Matykunas has already decided she wants to further her education and hopefully attended Ohio State University for welding engineering.
She said she not only wants to enter into the industry, but start her own business as well. She already has plans for roll-bars, tire carriers and bumpers for off-roading vehicles.
“Women are successful in this trade,” Modesitt said. “They get into this stuff.”
For Nardone, it’s something new and she’s fitting right in. Modesitt said he calls her “duct tape” because she uses it to fix everything.
“My dad loves that I’m in welding and he definitely pushes me toward it, but my mom is worried about my protection and safety,” she said. “My pants caught on fire this morning, actually, but the danger aspect is pretty cool, too.
Information from: The St. Augustine (Fla.) Record, https://www.staugustine.com
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