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Ladies Learning to Weld

By Staff | May 29, 2015

Ashley Burkhartsmeier/PCT Bruce Gannarelli, left, instructs a class on welding at Rugby High School.

Five Rugby High School students went back to school Tuesday, picking up welding tools instead of writing utensils.

Rising freshmen Mckenzie Tuenge, Katherine Filler and Lexi Vetsch and rising juniors Hannah Hoffert and Kari Fritel attended a welding class led by Bruce Gannarelli and Melissa Brossart, a welder at TBEI (formerly Rugby Manufacturing) – made possible in part by a grant to the North Central Area Career & Technology Center for exploring non-traditional career choices, in this case young women and welding.

Class participants first undertook a classroom session, which included movies of women in welding-related fields, including inspectors and instructors. Brossart then spoke about her experience and skills needed for welding, which include the ability to convert decimals to fractions and vice versa and to lift 50 pounds.

“I’m proud to say that I’m a welder,” Brossart said as she spoke in front of the class. “I can do any job that a man can.”

Brossart added that she gets shocked faces every time she tells someone she’s a welder. Originally going to school to be a teacher, she changed her career path and has been welding at TBEI for three years.

In the classroom, Gannarelli discussed tools, safety gear and some of the risks of welding, including burns, electrocution and “welder’s flash” – “sunburn” of the eyes.

“You are in a field where you can get hurt,” Gannarelli said to the class.

Gannarelli has been teaching welding for three years. He picked up welding at the age of 40, taking a year off from his 30-year career in education to work in a manufacturing setting and in a machine shop setting.

Students later had the opportunity to learn how to strike an arc, run a bead across metal and stick weld in the RHS vocational ag shop, They also toured TBEI in the afternoon.

At the end of the class, Gannarelli said the students were “happy” with the way the class went and they “thought it was beneficial.”

Hoffert heard about the class through Gannarelli, who is a family friend, and has a brother who welds. Having not learned how to weld due to not taking an ag class this past school year, it was her brother who cemented her decision to take the class.

Fritel had previously learned to weld in an ag class and had heard about Tuesday’s class when Cherry Gannarelli, Bruce’s wife, talked about it in an English class.

“It sounded kind of fun,” Fritel said.

Hoffert said about the class and experience, “Welding isn’t as scary as I thought. It’s definitely something I will keep in mind from now on! It was fun and interesting!”

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