ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – More women are enrolling in welding school, breaking gender barriers. A former military member who is currently a welding student at Texas State Technical College shared her experiences in male-dominated fields.

For years, the welding classroom at TSTC has been filled with almost entirely male students, but that trend is now changing because of students like Alicia Stepp. She is going against the grain in her career, but according to Stepp, this is not the first time she has decided to step into a male-dominated field. 

“I did six years of active duty in the Air Force. I was stationed here at Dyess Air Force Base in Abilene,” Stepp explained. 

Her interest in entering into a trade grew, and now, she spends time welding nearly every day. 

“Throughout my military career and pretty much everything I’ve done, I’ve been one of the only women,” Stepp said. 

However, she is not alone in her welding class this year. There are two women, and according to instructor Erik Barnes, that number was zero just a few years ago. 

“One of the best tig welders I’ve ever met was a female,” Barnes explained. 

Barnes believes that interest begins in high school, with the availability of more career and technical education classes as well as agricultural mechanic programs.

“People are now understanding that it’s not just a men’s game,” Barnes said. “Women can do it, as well.” 

Not only are females able to do it, but Barnes shared that he encourages them to pursue this career because they tend to pay greater attention to detail. 

“It comes down to like the littlest things, like, women painting their nails – that fine detail. Men – it’s kind of hard to do,” Barnes explained. 

Stepp agreed with Barne and added that she believes women are better suited to weld. With her experience in the military and now welding, she is paving the way for others to feel like they can do it, too. 

“I think a lot of people try to scare people out of more masculine career fields like this, and there’s not really a reason for it,” said Stepp. 

Currently, there are eight women enrolled in welding classes across West Texas TSTC campuses. The average starting salary for welders in Texas is $48,000 per year.