Welding Careers Arc Upward with Help from Rural Minnesota CEP
Aviation enthusiasts come to Javron, Inc. in Brainerd to have their experimental aircraft designed, built or repaired. That would not be possible without individuals like Kelsey Saba, a welder at Javron and recent graduate of the welding program at Central Lakes College (CLC), also in Brainerd. And just as Saba helps those aircraft take to the skies, Rural Minnesota CEP has helped her career take flight.
“Assistance from Rural Minnesota CEP helped me go through the welding program with a little less stress,” said Saba. “I would still be paying student loans if it was not for them.”
Javron Inc. manufactures experimental aircraft fuselage kits. All the components are formed, assembled and welded at their location by individuals such as Saba, whose main job is welding and fabricating the aircraft. She graduated from the one-year welding program at CLC in 2019. Rural Minnesota CEP was able to help her pay for tuition and two welding certifications, helping her achieve a Level II Advanced Welder status right out of college.
Welding as a career had never occurred to Saba prior to attending CLC. After high school, she took a few college courses in Accounting, able to turn them into a well-paying job with a company in Accounts Receivable. Not quite satisfied however, she looked into the welding program on the advice of a friend while on a snowboard trip. Despite never having welded anything before, she immediately displayed a knack for welding, displaying excellent skills and earning top grades once enrolled, even placing seventh in a Minnesota SkillsUSA Competition. When asked how she got to be so good at welding, her initial response indicated she had no idea.
“If I had to pick one thing, it would be my attention to detail, because welding is like an art form and I am constantly trying to make all my welds perfect,” she said. “I absolutely love being able to do something different every day and not be stuck sitting at a desk.”
Saba knows she is going down a bit of a non-traditional path, in a workforce where only about 5% of all welders are women. She graduated with two other women but doesn't work with any other women welders now. But welding is a skilled trade in high demand, so she knows employers want to hire anyone with the skill for the job.
“Javron hired me because I am a good welder,” she said. “I was interested in practicing on chromoly, chrome-alley steel commonly used in airplanes, because it is so different from other metals and I believe they were impressed with my ability.”
The financial assistance provided by Rural Minnesota CEP was part of a federal program designed to develop more skilled trades workers. In addition to the funding, they provided Saba with the guidance to navigate all the steps necessary to complete the program and certification requirements. And they are seeing some return on their investment, as she devotes some of her time with students in the program she came through.
“I’m a big fan of Kelsey,” said Amber Kropp, the Job Counselor with Rural Minnesota CEPwho worked with Saba. “She continues to help the welding program students at CLC, which shows her dedication to the field of developing welders.”
And Saba does so, knowing those students are needed out in the field, whether with her company or another.
“We have more planes coming in here every day, so there is no end to the work,” she said. “I guess you could say our future is taking flight!”