CONTACT: Annamae Siegfried-Derrick, Public Relations Officer
BILLINGS – Ten Montana Women’s Prison inmates on Wednesday were awarded certificates for successfully completing an introductory welding program, which was offered for the first time at the Women’s Prison this fall.
In late October, welding class participants took their first hesitant steps up the stairs and into a welding trailer containing a small classroom and six welding booths, each shielded by a red plastic curtain. But by the end of the approximately 120-hour course, the students eagerly entered the trailer, put on their coveralls, protective suede jackets, shoe covers, welding caps and hoods, and struck their welding arcs, creating a shower of sparks behind the curtains.
“The new welding program is a great opportunity for the women here to learn marketable skills that will help them reenter society and attain gainful employment,” MWP Warden Joan Daly-Shinners said. “The women overcame their initial hesitation, recognized the opportunity they were being given, and worked hard to succeed.”
The welding course covered entry-level skills in different welding processes and techniques. Students were introduced to oxy-fuel cutting, gas metal arc welding (GMAW) and fluxcore arc welding (FCAW), and were exposed to shielded metal arc welding (SMAW). The program also covered basic construction math and workforce readiness preparation. Participants passed qualification tests for FCAW, SMAW and oxy-fuel cutting using current industry standards.
“The Department of Corrections is fortunate to have such great partners in our efforts to broaden inmates’ job skills,” Montana Correctional Enterprises administrator Gayle Butler said. “Welding is a non-traditional skill for women, but this first class at the Women’s Prison certainly rose to the challenge and showed what they are capable of given the opportunity.”
Butler said that the new program was made possible by a collaboration with City College – Montana State University Billings, Great Falls College – Montana State University, U.S. Department of Labor and Industry, Montana Department of Labor and Industry, Montana Correctional Enterprises, the Montana Women’s Prison and Billings Adult Education.