On the east side of Indianapolis, at the corner of Commerce and Massachusetts Avenues, right next to Kountry Kitchens soul food restaurant, the Latinas Welding Guild brings the community together to pass on resourceful knowledge. With a variety of tools and limitless imaginations, welders don their helmets and watch the sparks of creation shine.
“I love art and I love working with my hands and I heard about Consuelo’s welding classes, so I thought, I’ll give it a try,” said Marisol Serrano. “I love it because it’s a safe space for me and just being here is super exciting.”
The Latinas Welding Guild was founded in October 2017 by Consuelo Poland, a Guatemalan-born artist and welder with the goal of empowering women personally, creatively and economically through welding. Knowing the struggles of the Latin American community, she formed the guild to create a space of equal access and education for women, especially minority women, in what is a field heavily occupied by men.
The Latinas Welding Guild seeks to help low-to-moderate income Latina and non-Latina women access welding skills and certification preparation. According to Zippia.com, female welders earned 88% of the income of male welders. This means that for every dollar earned by a man, the woman earned 88 cents.
Hard work and dedication to their program resulted in the recipient of the “Diversity in the Workforce” award at the 21st Annual Mayor’s Diversity Celebration Award on June 2.
“It was another very proud moment for us,” said the guild’s Samantha Alba. “We are so proud to be part of an organization that works with marginalized people and specifically on gender. It’s hard for women who are interested in a male-dominated field and feel comfortable, or being taken seriously, or being good enough.
“Winning this award is an honor and I feel very deserved. We’re doing what we need to do to be diverse and inclusive and educating people about the dying jobs, and I think that’s super important.
The Latinas Welding Guild offers classes once a week, year-round, for three different types of certification preparation: Metal Inert Gas (MIG) Welding, Tungsten Inert Gas (TIG) Welding, and Welding armored metal arc (stick). After earning these certifications, graduates find many opportunities from the skills they have acquired.
“We’ve now had 86 women earning certifications, and we’ve placed over 20 of them in jobs,” said instructor and program director Jonathan Garmany. “It’s really exciting to help empower them to help change their lives for the better because welding is a more skilled trade that has a higher pay and is able to pass on the knowledge that also gave me helped before.”
“Now that I have my certifications, I’m also a teaching assistant at Arsenal Tech,” Serrano said. “I was also able to get involved and help build parks here, and that was a highlight for me.”
Students who have taken the course are not only using what they have learned for career projects, but also at home in their backyards.
“When people learn to weld, they’re able to make a railing for their stairs, or planters for their backyard, and other things that could go into the community,” Alba said. “Being able to use the profession on projects for the community is one thing, but it also teaches you to be more autonomous in a field, [and that] that’s what impresses me the most. For example, getting under your car and knowing how to solder something is really very useful to know.
Alba also says that after getting her certifications in April, she will be teaching at Arsenal Tech with Serrano.
The Latinas Welding Guild is now launching co-ed classes — “2-week boot camps,” Garmany said, and the program is income-based.
“We help work with students,” he said. “We’re not going to charge $5,000 for a course if a student can’t afford it. We want to make it accessible to everyone. We offer allowances for gas cards and bus cards.
“We want students to come here, get certified, and learn to weld.”
Ryus Moore is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.