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Alumni Spotlight: Taylor Davison

March 16th, 2018

Two and a half years ago, Taylor Davison was a single mother of three who had been laid off from her job. Today, she has a successful career as a welder – something she says she “just kind of fell into.”

Davison was collecting unemployment and struggling to find a job that paid her a wage that would allow her to support her family. She went to the unemployment office and asked for help finding a job. Instead, they suggested retraining. “They said, ‘Because you’re receiving unemployment through no fault of your own, we’ll actually pay for you to go to any kind of technical college,’” Davison recalls. “They did aptitude tests on me and came up with a list of about 15 things that I’d be good at, and I just picked welding because my brother’s a welder. My brother-in-law is a welder. I figured it was indoors so I could work year-round.”

She decided to go to Loenbro Technical Institute for her 12-week welding program. The hands-on training was something Davison really liked. “It made it a lot easier because I learn things faster by being shown how to do something instead of reading it in a book,” she says. Tommy Myers, the lead welding instructor, would watch her do a weld and guide her through it. “He’d say, ‘What you need to do is pull it around a little bit,’ and he’d hold my elbow to where it needed to be.”

Woman WeldingIn just 12 weeks, she graduated and received her GMAW 3G and 4G certification. “The first job I applied for, I was hired on the spot,” she says. That was in a matter of days. She applied to be a bridge welder at Heavy Construction, but was told she needed additional certification. “They said, ‘We can bring you in, and you can be a welder in the shop and weld on the heavy equipment that we have.’ I did that for about eight months, and then they wanted me to go and get my bridge welding certificate,” she says. The company paid for the certification.

Davison is now the lead welder for Heavy Construction. “I got hired at $13.45 an hour, and I’m making almost $19 an hour right now,” she says. “That’s just within two and a half years. Here [in South Dakota] that’s exceptional pay for a welder.” She’s thrilled, but she says success has not come without challenges.

In the beginning, the physical demands of the job really got to her. “When I started, there were days when I felt like going home and crying,” she says. “I wanted to prove myself, and I never wanted to ask for help. The first two months were very tiring and I was very swollen, but the more I got used to it, the easier it became.”

What one might think would be a challenge – discrimination because she is a woman – is not. She says she is not treated any differently than the men she works with. Her job involves going out to sites and fixing things that are broken. “When I first started and the guys weren’t familiar with me, they would gravitate towards me (you know, a bunch of guys!) and they’d nudge in and say, ‘Hey, do you need some help with that?’ They thought I was a damsel in distress,” she says. “They didn’t realize I was there to save their a****.”

She does find the hours to be challenging. She builds bridges for the Department of Transportation. “Sometimes

they expect you to be there 16 or 18 hours straight,” she says. “It makes it hard for me because now I’ve got to juggle how I’m going to get the kids from school or different things like that.”

Davison is 36 now, and she says she’s ready for more pay – and perhaps, a slight change. “I think, honestly, my body is only going to last so long doing the physical labor of welding,” she says. She would like to go back to school and become an engineer. If she does, her boss said he will find a place for her in the office. Davison thinks she already has a good start because she can read blueprints, has done concrete and is a decent mechanic. “I have a gist of what will work and what won’t, and I’d be a little more educated than just book smart.”

As a female in the welding industry, Davison is clearly a minority. There’s only one other female welder in the area that she knows of, but she says it’s a good career for women. “They’re more meticulous, so they pay attention to what their bead looks like, and they have a steadier hand,” she says. “It’s a good career where you can keep advancing, and it pays good.”

Davison is grateful for the informative, hands-on training she received at Loenbro. “Without them, I wouldn’t be where I am right now,” she says. “I left a job making $12 an hour as a cook where you don’t really have much advancement to actually having a career and making great money to support me and my kids.”

 

If you are ready to train for a career with a promising future – and one that you can begin in less than 12 weeks – contact Loenbro Technical Institute today. New classes begin every two weeks.

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