Two local women are challenging themselves and pushing past gender stereotypes as they study welding at the Southern Oklahoma Technology Center.
Citing the high demand for welders and increasing employment opportunities, both Fedaisha Cohee and Makala Jagers plan to have long and prosperous careers in the field.
"I've done all kinds of work, but never looked into a trade or thought about a trade," Cohee said. "Skilled work doesn't have as many people."
Both women have been nominated by welding instructor Johnie Carter for the Breaking Traditions Award given by the Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education.
Yet, studying and working in a male-dominated environment does not appear to bother either one.
"We have to deal with the boys, but they're respectful. They treat you like one of the guys," Jagers said.
For Cohee, the non-traditional aspect is part of the allure.
"You should get into fields you wouldn't normally to challenge yourself," she said.
Cohee, an adult student with five children, decided to try welding after working at a warehouse and hearing about the occupation. She took a summer course, then signed up for the full program.
"There is a high demand for welders," Cohee said. "I wanted to get into something that can support me and my children."
She plans to find a job in a welding shop when she finishes earning her certification.
Jagers, Lone Grove senior, studied graphic design before switching to welding this year.
"I can design what I want, and now I can make what I want," she said.
Jagers is keeping her future options open, as many fields use graphic skills, in addition to utilizing her welding skills and desire to be a teacher. She is also considering working on a pipeline.
Until then, both women are focused on completing their welding certification and the projects assigned in class.
Cohee is currently preparing a piece for the state competition.
"I'm going to have to love it to make it right," she said.
Jagers' favorite project has been metal signs that say "Weld it."
"The sign is just really cool," Jagers said.