By SHERI GASSAWAY
The Iron Workers Local 396 training school recently welcomed its youngest visitor yet – an eight-year-old Moscow Mills girl who’s been fascinated with welding since she was only five.
Her father, Jeff Deane, welds on the side. His daughter Addi watched him weld for a year, and finally, when she was six, he started showing her the ropes. Since then, she’s created dozens of metal and iron pieces of artwork. She even has her own Facebook page and YouTube channel: Welding with Addi.
‘ENJOYS IT, GOOD AT IT’
“She really enjoys it, and she’s good at it,” Jeff Deane said. “So, we thought we’d introduce her to some careers in which welding is involved. We contacted Iron Workers Local 396, and Addi was able to spend the day interviewing the members and learning some of the specifics of the trade.”
Addi and her family stopped by the Local 396 training school on Dec. 26. She was joined by Local 396 Apprenticeship Coordinator Billy Borton, journeywomen Aurora Bihler and sisters Angela and Katie Johnson and apprentice Katelynn Alexander.
“I learned that I-beams are lifted with chains and how to tie knots with ropes,” Addi said of her visit. “I also enjoyed talking with other welders and hearing about why they love welding.”
Borton said that over the years, Local 396 has had some older Boy Scouts out to the training center in order for them to earn welding merit badges. But he said Addi is the youngest person who’s toured the apprenticeship school in its history.
EXTRAORDINARY YOUNG LADY
“We love to see someone so young interested in welding and working with their hands,” Borton said. “She’s an extraordinary young lady, asked some really good questions and did a fine job on her practice welds at the school.”
Jeff and his wife Jessie Deane have several relatives on the West Coast that are iron workers and boilermakers, which is why they reached out to Local 396 first. They are planning to have Addi visit other union training centers that incorporate welding in their curriculum in the near future.
NON-TRADITIONAL CAREERS FOR WOMEN
“It’s not just about teaching her a hobby,” Jeff said. “It’s about exposing her to non-traditional careers for women. Most kids or even families know that the trades even exist. It’s all about female empowerment.”
Jessie Deane added: “I think what Addi is doing is awesome. No matter where she goes in life, she will always have welding to fall back on. Most people discourage women from learning the trades, and it should be encouraged.”
In the last five to seven years, there’s been a huge increase in the number of women joining the building trades not only in St. Louis, but across the nation. And seeing those numbers rise will be important for the future of the building trades, especially with the number of Baby Boomers retiring.
THE BUD PROGRAM
In Missouri, there’s a concerted effort to recruit more women and minorities into the building trades: the Missouri Works Initiative’s Building Union Diversity (BUD) program. The free six-week, nationally recognized program offers pre-apprentices the opportunity to visit local building trade unions to give them hands-on basic training and a feel for each of the trades. Local 396 is one of the participating unions.
Since the BUD program was created in 2014 by the St. Louis Building Trades, it has had a 92 percent graduation rate, and of those who have graduated, 79.2 percent are minorities and 26.5 percent are women. Often times, the graduates are hired by local contractors either before or after their graduation ceremony.
There are three other upcoming BUD courses available this year: April 17, July 10 and Sept. 25. BUD is a full-time program, and classes are held Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. the first week, and Monday through Thursday for the following five weeks.
For more information or to apply, visit moworksiniative.org.