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A Passion for Welding: Catching Up With Pierrette Swan

Pierrette Swan has worked in the manufacturing and shipbuilding industry for more than 10 years with a focus on welding. Last year she helped launch WHRO Public Media's Work Like A Girl campaign and served as a Work Like A Girl ambassador.

We recently caught up with Pierrette to see what she is up to these days. And, it's no surprise, she is still incredibly passionate about welding and about sharing her passion with other young women.

When we last caught up with you, you were working as a manager of welding services. Are you still in the same role? How is work going?

I have actually transitioned into a new role since we last spoke. I am now a welding instructor for high school students at New Horizons Regional Education Center. Although I was not looking to switch jobs at the time, this wonderful opportunity came up, and I just knew that working with young people and helping them learn a trade would be so fulfilling. So far it has been exactly that! I am so happy in this role. As a first year teacher, I was not sure what to expect, but the experience has been incredible. I am so lucky to work at New Horizons and I love my students so much.

While serving as a WHRO Public Media Work Like A Girl ambassador you had the opportunity to speak with young women about welding and choosing skilled careers. Is that something you have been able to continue doing?

Talking with women about skilled careers is something I have always been passionate about, so I do continue to do this whenever an opportunity comes up. I have continued to make social media posts on my TikTok and LinkedIn pages that show my current experiences in welding, and it has allowed me to connect with both men and women who are interested in welding. I am always happy to give advice or answer questions for them. I also recently had the opportunity to be featured in a member profile for the American Welding Society magazine. I was in the January issue of the Welding Journal where i got to give some background to my story and how I got involved in welding. I am hoping through different exposure more young girls are able to see me in my current role and know that there is a pathway for them too.

You were also serving on the board of Youth Volunteer Corps Hampton Roads. Is that something you still do? What fun projects have you been able to assist with?

Yes I do still currently serve on the Board of Directors for YVCHR. We did recently hold a "Golfing Fore YVCHR" event at Top Golf in Virginia Beach to celebrate the organization's expansion to the Southside of Hampton Roads. We have also been working on planning our upcoming 11th annual Canstructure Competition which will be taking place on April 30th. This event is always so cool, because K-12 students get to build structures out of canned goods that will then be donated to the Virginia Peninsula Foodbank. They really get into it and partner up with engineers and tradespeople from local business to design their structures. I am excited to see what they come up with this year!

Another project you are involved in is being featured in the documentary A Muse. A Moment. A Movement. How did that come about?

That actually happened because of my involvement with WHRO. After being a part of the "Work Like a Girl" campaign I was introduced to Sibel Galindez at The Z and the filmmaker Taylor Abreu who are both wonderful!

Can you tell us what the documentary is about?

This documentary mainly focuses on artist Renee Calway and her exhibit, while also interviewing several other women who work in the arts. The documentary looks at history and our own experiences with the progress women have made in society.

Why did you feel it was important to be a part of it?

Growing up, my generation was not encouraged to do things that were considered for men. Nobody ever talked to me about becoming an engineer, even though I was advanced in math and science. I never knew that welding existed until my art degree sent me on a path to explore careers where I could use my artistic abilities. It is interesting to think about the advancements that I have seen just in the short time since I began my welding career. I love to hear other women's stories and I believe that sharing my story will also inspire other women to try things that they may have never been exposed to.

The documentary will be shown at Zeider’s American Dream Theater’s Women’s History Month event “She’s A Brick House.” What can you tell us about this event?

There are several events taking place during Women's History Month for the "She's a Brick House" celebration at The Z. On March 4th there will be a champagne reception celebrating Taylor Abreu and Renee Calway. At this event we will be able to see Renee's artwork as well as watch Taylor's documentary. I'm very excited to see everything to come together and for it to be shared with the community.

Anything else new that you’ve been up to that our readers would find interesting?

I am also involved with the Association of Manufacturing Excellence's Emerging Leaders Program. The AME is an international organization about sharing knowledge and manufacturing best practices. As an Alumni of the AME Emerging Leaders Program, we are serving to help the new Emerging Leaders and to be more involved in planning AME events. Currently, I am serving on a small team who is putting together a Summit focused on the "Workforce of the Future" which will take place in July. This is yet another opportunity I am excited about that allows me to help manufacturers encourage the future workforce, and hopefully encourage more young women to take on skilled careers.

Learn More About Skilled Careers

Learn more about the Work Like A Girl initiative.

Read more about how Pierrette discovered her love of welding.

Watch the WHRO Facebook interview where Pierrette answered viewers questions about skilled careers.

Read more stories about working in skilled careers.