Missoula College’s West Campus offers a wide range of Industrial Technology courses, including Welding Technology. This program prepares students to operate and troubleshoot a variety of welding tools and six different welding processes. Beyond this, students also study other skills, including blueprint reading and layout, metallurgy and heating and cooling cycles’ effects on various metal types. Currently, there are 35 first-year students and 16 second-year students in the Welding Technology program.
This month’s student spotlight features Allie Hagwood, a second-year student in the Welding Technology program, who has earned statewide recognition for her welding successes.
Q. When will you graduate from Missoula College?
Q. Can you tell us about some of the welding awards you have won?
I feel honored to have been nominated for and awarded the $750 Protech Award from Soroptimist, a scholarship group for women. The two Protech scholarships are awarded to women who are in a vocational, technical or training program. Receiving the award was an experience I’ll never forget. The ceremony was almost overwhelming; I was alongside other women who I looked up to and was really proud of for receiving their awards.
I also received a couple of scholarships, including the Bitterroot College Bootstraps scholarship for full time students in the Applied Science program with at least one dependent under 12 years old.
Q. Why did you choose to study at Missoula College?
I wanted to try something totally different from my former workplace. I was a CNA for a short time and was planning to go to school for nursing, but changed my mind and decided to pursue welding and computer science. I had already completed my first year at Bitterroot College and thought it would be a wise decision to pursue a degree in a program I already enjoyed and was doing well in.
When I saw the opportunity to study at Missoula College, coupled with funding available for single moms, the decision was easy. I made the move all the way from Darby to Missoula to continue my second year of welding here at Missoula College. Welding is also a career you’ll always be able to find an opportunity in. There are a lot of jobs out there, especially for women in the field.
Q. How is the welding program at Missoula College preparing you for the field?
Since I’m in my second year, we have a lot of new things we are working on. I’ve learned about scarfing (a welding method used for pipe welding) and new metals like stainless steel and aluminum. I’ve also learned more about GTAW welding (Gas Tungsten Arc Welding) and TIG welding (Tungsten Inert Gas). Everything you get to do in this program and everything you get to watch is really remarkable; it really gets your gears turning for different welding methods and opportunities.
Q. Tell us about your favorite professor:
That’s a tie between Zach Reddig and Brad Platts—which is funny because they have two different personalities, but work great together.
Zach is understanding and will do anything to make sure that you succeed as a student. He’s encouraging and caring, and really wants his students to do well. Brad is the same way, but approaches things differently. As a certified welding inspector, he’s very technical, but also really intelligent and helpful. He will sit down with students and really take the time to get to know them.
In fact, both make personal relationships with their students. We’re not just students in their eyes, we are real people. They’re both amazing and are more than willing to put in the time and take hours out of their day — even after hours — to make sure you pass your courses and understand the material.
Q. What has been your favorite class so far?
I can’t choose a favorite class, but I will say welding in general has been so rewarding. When you do a good job on a welding project and your professor passes it, you’re reminded of why you started this program in the first place. And it really inspires you to continue. That’s why I do it: everyday that I pass a test, learn something new, I walk out of here feeling motivated and like it’s all worth it.
Q. What is the best advice you received as a student?
I think my best advice came from Zach Reddig, the director of Welding Technology. When I was feeling overwhelmed and stressed out, I sat down with Zach to talk. I told him I felt like I was in over my head, and that I wasn’t sure if learning welding was right for me. Zach looked at me and said: “Allie, what are you talking about? You are doing a great job.”
He expressed that you can do almost anything with a degree in welding: teaching, working for a company, etc. He also told me: “Before you even started at Missoula College, I had four phone calls from different employers about you.” He encouraged me to stay in school, to continue working hard and reminded me that I’ll be able to find a good job afterward.
Q. Have you experienced any other memorable moments in this program?
Aside from that encouraging moment with Zach, the unique thing about this program is that our welding class is like family to each other. All of the guys are great and are really supportive. Knowing that you can come to school and have a family who will look out for the safety of each other, will drop whatever they’re doing to help you out, is a really good feeling. All of the guys genuinely want each other to do well in this field. I’m only one of two second-year females, yet it’s not a boys club. Instead it’s a great, caring group of people. I think it’s also a good indication of what my future workforce may be like.
Q. What advice would you give students wanting to enroll in the Welding Technology program?
Come in prepared: from your tools and clothing, to your mindset. It is a job. You need to be here, and you can’t slack off. If you miss a day, you will return and feel like you’re lost. Once you’re in, keep working at everything you do here, even during your breaks from school. Make this your life because it is your life; it’s your money, time and future job.