Rachel’s welded to getting more women into trades
- Rachel Miller discovered welding by accident but instantly applied to trade school to develop her skills
- Having worked as a Welder for a number of years, she’s now helping other women learn the skill of welding
- Rachel wears Steel Blue’s pink boots because they are ‘both comfortable and fashionable’
One day Rachel Miller walked into the garage of her family home in Phoenix, Arizona, and her life changed forever.
Her dad, a semitrailer owner-operator, and her brother, a Diesel Mechanic, were working on her dad’s Peterbilt truck.
“They were welding,” Rachel said. “I was about 22 or 23 at that point and I had never been exposed to welding. I’d never heard of it. I asked to try it and they were like, ‘sure, okay’. “They showed me how to and I got all geared up and laid a bead and I just thought it was the coolest thing ever.”
Rachel, who had studied social work at college but found the career it had given her unfulfilling, made a big life decision right then and there.
“I went home that night and I started looking up job opportunities and other welding-related things and I could see that welders were in demand. I realised if I was a Welder, I wouldn’t have any trouble finding a job.”
Learning the trade, developing true skill
Rachel applied to trade school to get some experience under her belt, graduating from a 10-month program — one of only two women in the class — in 2015. From there, her welding career in Phoenix’s busy manufacturing industries could begin.
“I got hired at the first welding job I took a weld test on,” she said. “I was making commercial dumpsters and compactors — those big trash bins you see outside of retail stores.”
After about 18 months she switched jobs, welding staircases and handrails. It was precision work, that Rachel said gave her a lot of new skills.
“That job taught me a lot about fabrication because we got in raw material and we had to bend it, cut it, punch it and weld it,” she said.
She took those skills to her next job, building overhead cranes, and then rejoined her old trade school, this time as a Teacher.
Passing on her skills to the next generation of welding women
Sharing her skills with the next generation is something Rachel is passionate about. In particular, she’s committed to seeing more women join the welding trade. To that end, she and her friend Letty (who was the year behind Rachel at trade school and followed her into several of the same workplaces in the years afterwards) set up the WeldHer Workshops.
“We get a lot of females messaging us on social media asking how we got started, where they can learn, and what advice we have about welding,” Rachel said. “We thought it would be cool to teach women who are interested in welding, so in September 2021 we found a welding lab at a local welding supply company. There was more interest than we even imagined because we had a wait list of 60 women who wanted to come to the class.”
The WeldHer Workshops have become a regular thing in Phoenix and Rachel and Letty have even started holding the classes in other states.
“I would love to see the number of women in trades grow and I thought if I could spark somebody into possibly pursuing a career, that would be so rewarding,” Rachel said. “And that has already happened! Multiple women have come through our class, they keep practicing and then take a weld test and they get hired. It’s awesome to see.”
Why Rachel chooses to wear Steel Blue work boots
When Rachel is welding, and when she’s teaching her skills to the next generation, she does so wearing Steel Blue work boots.
“I saw these pink boots on Instagram and I thought they were so cute, I needed them, so I ordered a pair online,” she said. “Then to find out that they were also comfortable, that was a huge win-win because they’re light on the feet, they’re good for work, and they’re comfortable.
“Out of the four years I was wearing that first pair, I had to change the insole maybe once. When they were finally getting too beat up, I got another pair.”
Both Rachel and Letty wear Steel Blue boots. Rachel wears pink boots and Letty wears purple.
“The fact that Steel Blue offers women’s boots and makes them both fashionable and comfortable, that really ties into our mission statement,” Rachel said. “Women can do their job and still have that little feminine touch in our so-called ‘male-dominated industry’.”