Non-Traditional Careers

Moraine Valley Community College January 2015 Newsletter

A Non-Traditional Career Is:

A career in which 25% or less of one's gender is represented

In this Issue:

  • Career Program of the Month: Welding
  • Spotlight on Alumni: Kristen Culen
  • Resources for Non-Traditional Career Seekers
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Career Program of the Month: Welding

Welding can be an exciting career for many, but women should take a second look at welding as well. If you enjoy working with your hands, being out in the environment, and overcoming challenges, and thinking scientifically welding may be for you.

What is Welding?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) welders, cutters and solderers join pieces of metal together using torches and hand-held metal joining equipment.

What is the Job Market?

Welders are in high demand in our current economy due to the aging population of current welders and the lack of current job seekers considering the manufacturing industry.

How Much Should I Expect to Make?

According to BLS the Median pay in 2012 for Welders, Cutters, Solderers and Brazers was $36,300 annually. However, individuals in specialty occupations such as pipe fitters can make $51,000 on average. In addition, salary varies on the type of company you work for, individuals working for electrical companies made the highest salaries of $61,110 and natural gas company employees made $59,620 according to

According to Jim Greer, Program Coordinator for Moraine Valley Community College's Welding Program and a professional with over 40 years experience in the industry, "A pipe fitter in Chicago makes over $45.00 plus per hour. A typical 2,000 hour year breaks down into $90,000 per year. However, most pipe fitters will be required to work overtime, resulting in a years pay well into the 6 figures". While there is a range, the more effort you put into specializing your welding career, the more you can expect to gain from it.

Why do Employers Want to Hire Females?

Many reasons: Women are often smaller than men and can fit into smaller areas to do out of position welding. Women tend to have excellent hand-eye coordination and a propensity for detail oriented work. In addition hiring women adds diversity to their team.

Where Can I Learn to Become a Welder?

Moraine Valley Community College has an established welding program that is over 30 years old. While enrolled in the welding program you will develop the ability to pipe-weld, arc-weld MIG and TIG weld, work from blueprints and much more.

Moraine Valley's Welding Program offers four different certificates you can earn in your journey to becoming a professional welder in as little as 18 months:

  • Certificate in Pipe Welding
  • Certificate in Combination Welding
  • Certificate in Advanced Welding
  • Certificate in Individualized Welding

To learn more about welding at Moraine Valley Community College please contact:

Admissions Office

(708) 974-5355

Academic Advising Center

(708) 974-5721

Jim Greer

Welding Program Coordinator

office: T813

(708) 974-5423

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Above: Kristen Culen, Welding Program Alumni

Spotlight on Career Program Alumni: Kristen Culen

Kristen Culen, a successful Moraine Valley Welding Program graduate graciously agreed to talk with us about what her life and career has been like since she graduated from Moraine:

Q: Where did you start out after graduating from Moraine Valley's program?:

A: After I graduated from Moraine Valley Community College’s welding program I applied and tested into Local Union 597 Pipe Fitters Apprenticeship Program. The wait time to find out if I had been accepted was about five months. By finishing the welding program at Moraine Valley I had a huge advantage over my peers when it came to passing the welding tests needed to continue my apprenticeship.

In an apprenticeship, you learn the trade while you’re working in the field as well as going to school. The Pipe Fitters Apprenticeship is a total of five years, the first four years I attended class at our Mokena, IL location one day a week and worked the remaining days in the field. That broke down to eight hours of class a week and 32 hours of work a week getting hands on training in the field. The last year of my apprenticeship (fifth) I no longer attended school and worked a full 40 hours a week. As an apprentice in the Pipefitters Union I needed to pass a certain amount of tests in order to continue. Since I had already learned basic welding skills from Moraine Valley these tests were less challenging to me than to some of my peers. Local Union 597 has a paid apprenticeship, I was paid to attend school and further my education. After I finished my apprenticeship I continued to work for the same contractor I had already been with all 5 years and graduated to Journeyman status.

Q: What is a Pipe Fitter?

A: Pipe Fitters work on power and process systems, everything from food processing plants to oil refineries and high rise buildings. My entire time in the trade has been spent in commercial work; hospitals, schools and high rises. I weld the pipe your natural gas travels in to supply your stove or dryer. As well as the steam that heats the water that supplies the cozy conditions you enjoy in the winter and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Pipefitting was the direction I chose to pursue, not all welding students may want this. There are a lot of avenues to consider, there's welding involved in every aspect of our lives. If pipe fitting doesn't interest her or him there is iron working, manufacturing, art sculpting, and many more positions available in the work force.

Q: What do you enjoy most about your job?

A: For me, sitting still for a long period of time for work or otherwise is very difficult. I like to keep busy on my feet, and I enjoy being hands on. It is also nice to see the finished product I have installed, it is instant gratification. I knew I never wanted to wind up in an office job. My father encouraged me to learn how to weld so we sought out Jim Greer at Moraine Valley to discuss the welding program.

Q: Where are you now in your career and where do you hope to go in the next few years?

A: I am currently a Journeyman with F.E. Moran, I have worked for them for seven years. I also teach part time at our training facility located in Mokena, IL where I completed my apprenticeship. My students include apprentices and journeymen, I teach 2 nights a week for 5 week sessions. I teach my students basic knowledge on how to operate the Trimble machine. One of the applications we use it for improves the accuracy of our work and speeds up productivity.

There is room for growth in this trade. In the next five years I hope to be more involved with my Union, as well as managing my own work and having children. It will take a lot of effort to manage both but I truly enjoy working and would hate to give up my career after all the hard work I have devoted to it.

Q: What is the biggest challenge you have encountered as a female Pipe Fitter and how have you overcome it?

A: I don’t feel that I have many obstacles, many of the people I work with I have gotten to know very well over the last 7 years, they take good care of me and in return I try to look out for them. Once in a great while, I will meet a man for the first time and they may not give me the time of day. This does not discourage me, I keep my head up and continue to produce high quality work, before long they don’t look at me any differently than other male tradesmen.

Q: What advice would you give to female welders to help them find employment after graduation?

A: Don’t feel discouraged, most fields of work that involve some type of welding are male dominated. Speaking from experience, being 1 of approximately 5 women in my graduating class of over 100 men. I have gained many brothers whom will be involved in my life for many years to come. I don’t feel that women are discriminated in the field, I haven’t personally dealt with it. There shouldn't be any reason why an employer wouldn't want a woman working for them. Women make great welders, due to our smaller, more nimble and steady hands. Also, our attention to detail plays a big role when performing a welding process. If you aren't hired the first time you apply, continue to apply. Don’t allow anything or anyone to stand in your way of succeeding.

Thank you for your time Kristen, your life is very exciting and we appreciate you sharing it with our readers.

Upcoming Event: Non-Traditional Career Panel

Non-Traditional Career Panel

When: Wednesday, February 25 2015, 11:00 AM-12:30 PM

Where: Fogelson Theater (T Building) 9000 W. College Pwky. Palos Hills

Who: current Moraine Valley students

Engage in an opportunity to hear from individuals who are pursuing non-traditional careers, ask questions about your own career path and network to improve your employment opportunities in addition to hearing about the benefits of internships!