When people think of welders, they may picture a man, perhaps a burly man, working in less than comfortable conditions – and surrounded by flying sparks.
Pocahontas County resident Priscilla Grimes has broken that stereotype big time. Oh, the sparks still fly in some cases, but Grimes is a welder, and she is not a burly man.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, fewer than five percent of welders are women, so Grimes’ has plenty of elbow room in her chosen field.
Grimes, a daughter of Mark and Lisa Grimes, of Green Bank, is a recent graduate of New River Community and Technical College, where she received an Associate of Applied Science in Welding degree.
She took that degree, and traveled a few miles from her home to the Green Bank Observatory Machine Shop, where she became the first person/woman to work as an apprentice there.
“I had a lot of people question why I was going into welding,” Grimes said. “People would say, ‘Why don’t you go into nursing?’ They meant well because there’s a need for nurses, and they didn’t think about women being welders or positions being available. But I was passionate about welding.
“I had started using my dad’s welding equipment when I was about six or eight-years-old and that experience sparked my interest,” Grimes explained. “He would let me use his old Lincoln welder, and even if I didn’t really know what I was doing, I still loved it. And it was a great skill to have, growing up on a farm and all. You need to know how to fix your own things, become self-sufficient. So I knew growing up that this was what I wanted to do for a living. When I started looking for schools, it started out as a tough decision, but became clear real quick.
“I’d looked at another welding program, but it was further away. After I visited New River, I fell in love with the facility and it was so much closer to home. I ended up getting my welding degree in two years, and then went back for another year to get my machinist certification.”
Being a welder is not just a job title for Grimes.
“It’s definitely a passion,” she said. “I do it for work. I do it as a hobby. I do it for the farm. And I do it for fun. I love to weld, and I would have to say that my favorite type of welding is probably TIG welding, or tungsten inert gas. There are no sparks or slag, and you could practically do it in shorts and a tank top.”
Grimes has already been recognized for her welding skills. She was named the “Face of New River,” as she was in the top of her class, and it had been 10 or 15 years since the last female welder had graduated from New River. Grimes also holds five American Welding Society certifications, SMAW, GTAW, SMAW Stick Pipe, Sheet metal, and Flux Core MIG.
New River CTC offers both a certificate of applied science and an associate of applied science in welding. For information on New River CTC’s welding programs, contact Welding Instructional Specialist Brad Veneri at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-929-3301.