(Pictured above: Five years ago, Shana was introduced to the welding trade during her Climb Wyoming training, forging a new future for herself and her young daughter.)
Shana still remembers picking up her welding gear and tools for the first time during her Climb Wyoming training— the large helmet, heavy leather protective gloves, torch and cutters.
Flying sparks and the smell of melting metal filled the air as she and the nine other women in her program laid down their first welding beads.
“I was hooked,” says Shana. “It was so awesome to see that I could do that!”
After Climb, Shana didn’t stop. Following a five-year apprenticeship that included 8,500 hours of training in industrial pipe welding, she has earned her certification as a Journeyman with Cheyenne’s Plumbers and Pipefitters Union 192.
“We don’t have to worry about where next month’s rent will come from. We don’t have to buy 99-cent cereal that doesn’t taste good.”
-Shana, Climb Wyoming Grad
When she started, there was only one other woman in the Union’s apprenticeship program. Then Summer, another grad from Shana’s Climb training, joined and is on track to become a Journeyman soon.
“It was scary at first,” Shana says of being one of the only women. “But once we got out on the job, the guys were really receptive of us.”
“You have to have tough skin,” says Summer, who often mentors Climb participants entering predominantly male fields like welding and truck driving. “You have to be able to adapt.”
Apprenticeships are an age-old practice of new tradespeople learning from experienced counterparts while on the job. Not everyone makes it through the Union apprenticeship’s long hours and physical demands.
Life changed quickly for Shana and her daughter once she joined Union 192 five years ago. Her salary jumped to $48 an hour with benefits.
“Climb took me from making $8 an hour and living in an abusive relationship to now I have a home, two cars, a husband, and my daughter is doing great in school.”
“My daughter will sometimes still pinch and save and I can tell her, ‘It’s okay. You don’t have to do that anymore.’ I owe Climb the world.”
Shana’s classmate, Summer, also saw a huge increase in her wages, more than doubling her income in the first year of her apprenticeship—a much-needed boost as she has five boys to support. “We’re not so stressed out all the time. It makes me proud for my boys to see how hard I work.”