Sara Verdery

Sara Verdery recently completed MIG Basic Welding training, with support from the Strengthening Working Families Initiative (SWFI) at Vermont Tech. Learn how this two-week grant-funded program transformed Sara’s life.

From the classroom, to the workshop

Since she was young, Sara felt drawn to trade work. “I’ve always been the type of person who is good with my hands,” says the Burlington resident.

But it wasn’t until she was 38 that she gave the trades a whirl.

Sara grew up in rural northwest Connecticut, which she says resembled Vermont with its many farms. “Even if you didn’t have a farm, you had some kind of workshop setup at home,” she recalls. For her family, it was her stepfather’s metal inert gas (MIG) welding workshop.

“I wasn’t allowed to learn how to weld,” remembers Sara. “To pursue a trade was never really encouraged. My family put a lot of stock in formal education.”

She went on to attend Green Mountain College, and for the past 10 years, worked in education—most recently as a teacher for high-needs students.

But the memory of her stepfather’s welding workshop stuck with her—and her decade of high-stress work in education began to take its toll: “I was feeling really emotionally tapped out.”

Sara was ready to try something new, to switch gears. So in fall of 2020, Sara registered for MIG Basic Welding at the Advanced Welding Institute (AWI) in South Burlington, through a partnership with Vermont Tech.

‘I completely fell in love’

Shortly after registering for MIG Basic Welding, Sara learned her $2000 training fee would be waived.  Her training would be funded by SWFI, which offers no-cost training and support to parents of young children.

The news made Sara feel more confident taking a leap into the unknown world of welding. “Someone called and said, ‘Let us pay for this,’” says the single mother of a young daughter, Edith. “And I thought, ‘How is this not a sign?’”

Still, she felt nervous at the start of her training. “I walked in kind of feeling like an idiot,” admits Sara. “Everyone else had some kind of exposure—they’d been welding on the farm.”

But her instructors quickly made her feel at ease: “Nobody at AWI made me feel like I was out of place. Nobody made me feel like a question I asked was stupid. It was such a welcoming environment.”

The seasoned educator was struck by the customized training she and the other participants received. She says her three instructors “met every one of us, individually, where we were at.” Each instructor demonstrated a different approach to welding, which helped influence Sara’s technique: “You have to find your own style.”

She also felt encouraged to see many women training at AWI, as men have traditionally dominated the field of welding. “It just made my heart burst,” says Sara.

After her two-week training, Sara knew she wanted to pursue a career in welding: “I completely fell in love.”

Combining passion with a paycheck

In 2021, Sara will begin a full-time, six-month welding program at AWI.

She feels excited to nurture her new passion and find work in an in-demand career field. She says, “I can go pretty much anywhere in the world and make really good money, in an industry that isn’t going anywhere.”

Sara encourages other parents to take advantage of Vermont Tech’s SWFI-funded welding trainings. “Just do it! It’s a minimal time commitment,” says Sara. “It’s two weeks of your life—but it could change the course of your entire life.”

Learn more

Interested in learning how to weld? Visit our Ag training page for a list our of latest offerings.

Posted December 2020