Wendy Kienbaum had never even used a welder prior to her arrival at Blackhawk Technical College (BTC) in the fall of 2013. A year later, she became a welder apprentice for the Local 383 Ironworkers Union in Madison.
“Since I had never touched a welder before my first day of classes, I would say hands down that I wouldn’t have this job if not for Blackhawk,’’ she said.
Wendy fit the description of a non-traditional student simply because she was a female in a male-dominated trade. But she also was non-traditional in a different sense. She didn’t come to Blackhawk with any previous training in the demanding field.
“I chose BTC because my mom, dad and sister attended school there,’’ she explained. “Then, after some research on welding programs, I learned that BTC’s was very reputable and heard that the instructors were very qualified. After I found that out, it was a no brainer.’’
Once enrolled, she learned she may have underestimated the impact her instructors could have.
“The assistance I received from the instructors was most important,’’ she recalled. “It was hands on, one-on-one help whenever I needed it. I gained so much confidence from their mentoring.
“Those simple conversations I had with them about their experiences in the field were priceless. They helped give me the confidence to go out there and pursue my career.’’
Wendy also learned the industry’s view of Blackhawk helped. While in school and prior to taking the apprenticeship position, she worked at Kuhn North America in Brodhead, an invaluable experience in her development as a welder.
“BTC has such a good relation with Kuhn,’’ she said, “and that allowed me to work while finishing school and schedule my work around my class schedule.’’