HAMLET — Twenty-one-year-old Miranda Baucom ties back her long blond hair in a ponytail and drops the shield of her welding helmet down over her face. She then lights a torch that will reach temperatures above 3,000 degrees.
Class has begun.
Baucom is one of only two female students in Richmond Community College’s welding technology program, but she is very comfortable in a shop environment working with her hands and using different types of tools.
“I actually enjoy coming to school. That’s something I have never been able to say before,” Baucom said.
Baucom started college after graduating from Richmond Senior High School in 2012. She began taking classes to become a nurse, but it didn’t take long for her to realize this wasn’t the right career path for her, so she withdrew from the program.
“Withdrawing from those classes really hurt my GPA,” Baucom said. “But now that I’m in the welding program, I am back on the dean’s list and making good grades. That’s how I know I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing.”
CLOSE TO HOME
Baucom, who lives in Rockingham, chose to come to RCC because she knew she wanted to go to college, but she wasn’t ready to leave home after high school. Both her brother and sister had gone to RCC, so she knew it was a good place to get her life started, she explained.
“All the teachers here are really great and they want to help you learn. My welding instructor, Chris Cesaro, has really helped me a lot and helped all of us in his class grow as a team,” Baucom said. “We’ve become like a family, and we all help each other learn techniques so we become better at our trade.”
Baucom is working at Advance Auto Parts while going to college. She’s always gravitated toward work that has been traditionally done by men, and welding is a skill she has wanted to learn for years.
“There are many techniques that are used in the welding field that helps the welder work in his or her own comfort zone,” RCC welding instructor Chris Cesaro said. “Even though Baucom had no previous welding skills, she quickly found her technique, which helped her advance in the program. She is a quick learner and always works well with others in a team environment.”
In the welding technology program at RCC, students learn about the science, technology and applications essential for working in the welding and metal industries, and they gain hands-on experience in RCC’s welding lab, which was renovated over the summer. There are now 15 new welding stations, and the lab is air-conditioned, a luxury the students didn’t have before.
Students also complete courses in math, blueprint reading, metallurgy, welding inspection and destructive and non-destructive testing. Graduates of the program can find employment as entry-level technicians in welding and metalworking industries. Career opportunities also exist in construction, manufacturing, fabrication, sales, quality control, supervision and welding-related self-employment.
“The welding field is a large one, and salaries for welders depend on where they work and what their skill level is,” Cesaro said. “Some welders can earn a yearly salary in the six digit number range if they choose the right career path.”
READY TO WORK
The welding program has given Baucom a newfound confidence, and she is ready to graduate and gain experience in the welding field. She has already passed a welding test at Southeastern Tool and Dye in Southern Pines and has been offered a job there, but she wants to finish college first.
“I’m not sure what I’m going to do when I graduate, but I do know that I want to start somewhere small until I get more experience. And then, I might travel because I’ll have a skill that I can go anywhere with,” Baucom said.
RCC is currently enrolling students for the fall semester. Contact student services at 910-410-1730 or visit RCC online at www.richmondcc.edu for more information.