Women Who Weld

Photo Courtesy of Samantha Farr

Iron Women: Building a Better Future for Detroit Women


It’s a fact that 96% of welders in the United States are male. It’s also a fact that the women of Women Who Weld are trying to change that percentage in Detroit.

Women Who Weld is a nonprofit training program that teaches unemployed and underemployed women how to weld and find employment in manufacturing. The program is an intro to welding course, which means no manufacturing experience is required, and students learn the basics of a metal shop and how to use a variety of tools.

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The program was founded in April 2014 by Samantha Farr, who got her Master in Urban Planning from the University of Michigan. Farr was inspired to begin welding in 2013 because she loved her architecture studies in school and enjoys working with her hands. She took a welding class on a Saturday morning and instantly fell in love with it, and she began to wonder why there weren’t more women doing it.

Farr realized that manufacturing was diverse in terms of the jobs you can get with just some basic training, but the workforce itself was not. This gave her the idea of starting a free program where she would introduce women in the community to welding with the hope that it would spark enough interest in them to later lead to employment.

Once Farr knew she wanted to move forward with a welding program, she applied for and received a $2,500 grant from Michigan State University. The first program was only a week long, but Farr said it was a great experience and helped her realize what she wanted to do with the program moving forward.

“It was kind of introductory but I saw there was a need for other supportive services sort of baked into the program so I would need to make it longer and hire a co-instructor,” said Farr. “I found that if I was going to hold the program and help [participants] find jobs it would make sense to target underemployed women. I have a friend that works with Coalition on Temporary Shelter (COTS), and some women from there were interested.”

Farr realized the big step for these women is that even though it looks cool and fun, most people need to learn where and how to get into the industry. Her goal is for the program to be the stepping stone that leads to apprenticeships and/or jobs for each of the program participants. She is currently working on developing relationships with welding and manufacturing companies that are hiring welders.

Another goal that Farr has set is to have one six week program a year completely subsidized by donations. She has a paid introductory course coming towards the end of July that will be open for registration soon.

Farr wants to continue to expand Women Who Weld in the coming years and hopes that her program will not only have an impact in Detroit, but the country as well. There are plans for developing a Women Who Weld network so that welders can come together and become a supportive community to share tips on jobs and programs across the country.

Farr mentioned that she is always looking to talk to women who are interested in the program or welders who can donate time, resources, or jobs for the graduates. She can be reached at samantha@womenwhoweld.org. Be sure to check out Women Who Weld’s Facebook page for events and more information.

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