Dawn Butts Making it in a Man’s World
On-the-Job Training Program
Her father told her about the Mobile Works on-the-job training program he heard about at Bender. Butts went to the Alabama Career Center and found out that Mobile Works pays up to 50% of the training costs for eligible hires or current worker, for up to 11 to 26 weeks of training. This offsets the costs of Bender’s expensive training program which lasts a year and begins with classroom training by certified instructors, as well as self-paced computer-based training. After completing this training, the trainee moves on to the shipyard.
Butts says, “The Bender training program isn’t easy, not by a long shot,”—but Butts thrived. Of the 15 people that started in the training program with her in late October 2002, only 4 graduated with her in April 2003. Today, only Butts is still at Bender. As a pipewelder, Butts works to repair ships and has not only learned pipefitting, but tubing, tig welding and structural welding as well. She likes the challenge of learning new things and is working toward achieving her first class level.
She says it is a tough program and a tough job, but she loves it because she gets to be active and work outdoors. She loves the increased confidence in her abilities and knowing that she is as tough as the job—and as tough as the men. Butts says, “I can count on both hands the number of women welders at Bender,” something she would like to see change.
Her fiancé was once worried about her working in the tough environment of a welder, but now he is just proud of her and her accomplishments. Butts says she has proved herself on the basis of her excellent work, always getting things done on time and giving 110%. Butts is also really enjoying the money she makes because she has had a 157% increase in base salary, not including overtime, since first joining Bender’s training program.
She says that other foremen besides her own often tell her that she has a job with them if she ever wants one. Butts also reports that the other welders consider her just one of the guys now, which is a huge compliment for her. But she says she has definitely gotten a “stiffer backbone” from working in such a male-dominated environment.
While the number of female workers at Bender is small, Ricky Johnson, Supervisor of Testing and Training, applauds the work of Butts and other women employees. Johnson, whose grandmother worked in the shipyards during World War II notes “women are my best welders.”
Butts has her sights set on being a foreman, but she “wants a couple of years experience under her belt with work on more types of ships and more of them first.” She believes that this will ensure her success. Butts also wants to have kids one day and sees herself at Bender when she does because “Bender has given me the financial means to take care of a family and I’m not going to give that up.” Mobile Works applauds Dawn Butts on her success.
Butts attained Master Craftsman status in the past year, which means she is certified for all types of welding and shipbuilding crafts. She is currently working in the plate shop at Bender, where she is learning to operate laser and plasma metal processors. Mobile Works is proud of Dawn Butts on attaining her Master Craftsman status and her hunger for new challenges.
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