Article on Welderchic workshops - Times Colonist - May 22, 2010,

Welder Chics are red hot

Woman-run welding firm offers courses

What could be cooler than melting metal every day? Not much, says Heather Greenway, one of a handful of women making a living in the welding trade in British Columbia.

Greenway briefly got the welding bug during a metals class in Grade 8, but it took several years and a stint studying social work in university to realize that fusing steel was her true calling.

"It's really rewarding to see something you've built," says Greenway, 26, who's hatched a new partnership with Theresa Siochowicz -- otherwise known as Welder Chic -- to form one of the province's only welding companies run by women.

Siochowicz, a Red Seal journeyman, started Welder Chic five years ago as a solo operation.

She gained a solid reputation making custom pieces ranging from iron gates and railings to vehicle and bakery racks and uses Rosie the Riveter -- the arm-flexing heroine who rallied women into the trades as men went off to fight the Second World War -- for her branding and inspiration in a career dominated by men.

Expanding the business made the partnership with Greenway a good fit, said Siochowicz, 35.

Greenway, who completed her welding courses at Camosun College, was a stainless steel specialist for Pacific Mechanical for four years and then went to work for the B.C. Construction Association's incentive programs to bring more youth, including women, into the trades.

Greenway said women's participation in the trades hasn't changed much since the 1970s, representing about three per cent of the workforce in B.C. A 2006 study by Simon Fraser University and BCIT noted of the 641 welding apprentices registered, just 26 were women.

"They say you have to get up to six per cent or more for it be sort of normal, or at least more accepted," Greenway said.

To that end, the Welder Chics are offering women's welder courses for beginners on Thursday nights at the shop in Esquimalt. Siochowicz's long-time goal is to apprentice more young women into the welding trade.

She admits her own career path to welding was a rocky one.

Leaving an abusive home in Toronto at age 14, Siochowicz stayed in school and graduated before migrating to Calgary in the early 1990s, where she earned a diploma in nutrition and stumbled into welding.

She worked at a coppersmith for six months, making swords and other oriental arts paraphernalia. She went into journeyman courses at the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology, where she booked the required hours over three years.

Pipeline work followed in Alberta, and Siochowicz arrived here in July 2003, working on overflow jobs for Amstel Metal Products and starting to build her own business from a small work area they provided.

"I think we work well together," said Greenway.

"I bring stainless experience. She has a background in aluminum. We're finding our goals are pretty congruent and we both want to take the business to the next level. We try to make it as easy as possible for [clients] to work with us and give them a real personalized service."

So far the Welder Chics haven't had to go out and bid on jobs as most are coming to them via world-of-mouth.

This month, they're working on an intricate staircase railing and a six-metre-high aluminum cross for a local church.

The Welder Chics are at 5-798 Fairview Rd. Call 250-590-0022 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              250-590-0022      end_of_the_skype_highlighting or see their website at: www.thewelderchic.com

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By Darron Kloster, Times Colonist - May 22, 2010