From accountant to welder
Dramatic career shift: From accountant to welder
By Kenneth del Rosario - Inquirer
Alpha Dasmariñas wanted to work abroad because her job as an accountant bored her.
Wanting a more challenging and unique job, she went back to school to study.
A strong advocate of women empowerment, Dasmariñas, 32, took up the challenge, taking a recourse often perceived as a man’s job.
Not caring if she would be tagged as “one of the boys”, she enrolled at the Labor-Link Technical Institute (Labor-Link), the first welding school in Quezon City put up to produce globally competitive welders.
“We had women, out-of-school youths and senior citizens in mind when we first thought of this project,” said Bernadette Herrera-Dy, a Quezon City councilor and founder of the Bagong Henerasyon (BH) Foundation, the organization that helped put up Labor-Link last February to provide employment opportunities for the city’s residents.
BH Foundation, created in 2002, coordinates efforts to tap potential workforce and develop people’s skills. Dy said they were aware of the strong demand for male and female welders alike, and realized they could provide a steady supply only if there was a venue where people could get formal training in the trade.
Dasmariñas, who graduated last June, will start working as a welder for a real estate company in Makati City in a couple of weeks. “After getting experience here, I would definitely want to go abroad, too,” she said.
According to Dy, Dasmariñas is only one of at least 50,000 welders in demand in and out of the country today.
Since the organization put up the welding school, the foundation has produced at least 280 graduates, 40 of whom are already working abroad. The organization either supports or helps students get sponsors for their studies or facilitates scholarship grants from the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA).
Apart from being the pioneer welding school in the city, Labor-Link, located in Balintawak, Quezon City, also boasts of a big number of women students enrolled in the course alongside their male counterparts.
“The response has been overwhelming,” the councilor told the Philippine Daily Inquirer, parent company of INQUIRER.net. “High school graduates who never had the chance to continue their education can now do so with this program.”
She added that even people who have not been able to go to school or those with no experience in welding can enroll as long as they show a genuine interest in learning the trade. Even people who already know how to weld but had no formal training can also enroll to get technical training, she said.
Dy noted that when they opened the welding school in February, there were only three female students out of 40 who enrolled. Today, she said, there are about 50 female students out of the 180 who signed up for the course.
“This is for the women, so I’m happy that we are seeing more female enrollees in school,” she said. “But this does not mean we’re discouraging men to enroll. They’re very welcome to join.”
Female welders are actually more preferred than males abroad, said Carlo Dimayuga III, president of Labor-Link. “This is because women have ‘lighter’ hands and more flexible wrists that tend to produce more polished work,” he added.
He noted that women welders are also generally more patient than men so foreign companies prefer to hire them, especially for jobs that require extensive attention to intricate details.
Gene Madridano, one of the four instructors in the welding school, noticed that his female students are definitely at par, if not better, than his male students. “They’re not just good at the application part, they’re also good in the lecture portion. Men sometimes are not as focused in this area,” he said.
Dimayuga said that this early, companies from Korea, Japan, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and Taiwan, among others, have expressed interest in hiring their female graduates.
The basic course Shield Metal Arc Welding (SMAW) lasts for a total of 38 days or 304 hours, Carlo said. Classes are held from Mondays to Saturdays, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Students then have the option to take the next more advanced course called Gas Metal Arc Welding (GMAW).
The students who enroll in the program, Dimayuga pointed out, have to pay “virtually nothing” because everything is shouldered by TESDA. The course, for walk-ins or those who do not have scholarships, on the other hand, costs from P10,000 to P15,000.
Welders who graduate from Labor-Link are ready for hiring in any shipping, pipeline, real estate and construction company anywhere in the world, Madridano said.
According to Dasmariñas, “I am proud to be a welder. This is now my life. Years from now, I will come back here after gaining valuable experience abroad. Who knows, I may even start a welding business or put up my own welding school.”