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Dublin High student paves way for aspiring welders

19-year-old Danielle Ward is the first student to land a welding job through the college and career program with Oconee Fall Line Technical College.

DUBLIN, Ga. — Dublin High School senior Danielle Ward had her eyes set on her future after hearing about the welding program offered at the Heart of Georgia College and Career Academy.

"My dad, he used to weld, so I thought maybe it was something I could look into, and if I needed help, he could help me. When I actually got into the class, I actually enjoyed it, and I had fun doing it," Ward said.

She takes dual enrollment classes at Oconee Fall Line Technical College in the welding career pathway and works as an apprentice at Wild Bore Mechanical and Plant Services.

"I could be having a bad day and I could go to the college and start welding and it's like I kind of find it like a therapy in a way," Ward said.

College and Career Academy CEO Eric Cannada partners with Wild Bore's Director of Human Resources Vic Cooper to provide career opportunities for students.

"The idea is that we have students come into high school, take welding classes, and then they'll go to Oconee Fall Line and they'll take more classes and get certifications. While they're in the Oconee program, then we will work with students after they advanced to a certain point and look for apprentices," Cannada said.

"For welders, starting out may start $18 an hour. That would be one what we would call a field welder and I'll be honest that could go as high as $26/$27 an hour. What we call our shop welders could start around $16 an hour and go as high as $20 an hour," Cooper said.

Ward is the first Dublin High student to land a welding job through the college and career pathway dual enrollment program with Oconee Fall Line.

She says doing it as a woman is even better.

"Kind of exciting, kind of scary in a way, but I find it more exciting than anything," Ward said.

Ward plans to finish her degree at Oconee Fall Line after she graduates high school and stay working as a welder locally. 

She says getting experience is her main goal.

A report from Zippia.com that uses data from the Census Bureau says 7.5% of welders in the United States are women.

Industries looking to partner with the Heart of Georgia College and Career Academy can email Eric Cannada at eric@dcsirish.com.