While the number of female welders across the country has grown in recent years, only 24 percent of welders in the United States are women. Kelsey Lyons, a 2018 graduate of Owensboro Community & Technical College refused to let the odds keep her from following her dreams of being a welder.
After graduating high school, Lyons enrolled at OCTC and in two years earned an Associate in Applied Science degree in Welding Technology.
On Jan. 2, 2019, Lyons was one of five OCTC graduates to begin their career at Modern Welding Company in Owensboro. While many OCTC welding graduates have launched their careers at Modern Welding, Kelsey Lyons set precedent by being the first female welder hired in the 85-year history of the company.
Modern Welding is a family owned business serving customers across America since 1932 in the fabrication of steel tanks, vessels and other custom-built products.
Growing up with four brothers, Lyons was used to getting her hands dirty and staying active. She found welding to be the perfect career choice because it provides her with the opportunity to work with her hands and allows her to try new things.
“Every day is different, and you are never working on the same thing,” Lyons noted.
She said that her greatest challenge in school was learning the new steps and procedures required for individual jobs. But understanding and perfecting those processes is also the part that challenges her and pushes her to succeed. From receiving and reading a blueprint, to developing a plan, gathering materials, and putting it all together for the final product, Lyons’ goal is “to put in quality work, to get a quality product for their customers.”
Lyons chose to continue her education at OCTC because it was close to home and affordable. Being a single mother, it was a priority that Lyons find a college that kept her near family, while also providing a quality education that fit her budget. When asked if she would change anything, Lyons commented, “I would choose OCTC, and definitely the welding program. I could not have asked for better professors and staff. They encouraged me and helped me reach my goals.”
During her time at OCTC, Lyons overcame many obstacles. Her mother had an unexpected serious health issue that required an extended hospital stay out of town. While she was working toward recovery, Lyons’ father had a health crisis that put additional strain on the family.
When asked about this stressful time juggling the daily tasks of raising a toddler, assisting ailing parents and finishing the classes required to earn her degree, Lyons said, “I took it day by day, and looked at the big picture. I tried to determine what I needed to do to keep my grades up, to succeed in my classes, and set time aside for family, and for studying.”
She noted professors like “Ms. Vickey,” Vickey Wood-Grasela, her first welding instructor, who helped her both inside and outside of class. She credits part of her success to the connection she formed with her professors who helped her throughout her time at OCTC, these relationships lasting even after she completed her degree.
Lyons encourages women to consider the manufacturing field and admits “it was intimidating at first, going into a man’s world, but if you put your mind to it, you can do it. You have to stand up for yourself and make your own path, setting your own goals, and work every day to move forward and meet those goals.”
Lyons feels that in the manufacturing industry, you’re not just a number. You mean something to the company and the work you are doing matters.
OCTC is very proud of the trailblazing steps Lyons has made since earning her welding degree. We look forward to following Lyons as she continues in her career and works toward her goal of transferring to a four-year university to earn a bachelor’s degree in education. She is sure to be an inspiration for many young people, motivating them to consider all aspects of manufacturing as a career.
This article was written by Amber Phillips
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