Anna Coffey, who has joined the Distinguished Young Women (DYW) Class of 2022 to qualify for the state program and a chance to compete nationally, is not your typical young woman.
Coffey is a welder. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, women account for just over 5% of welders. But Coffey is looking to change that statistic – and the face of the industry. The welding industry in the U.S. is expected to grow by 6% by 2026 and there aren’t enough skilled welders to meet demand.
Born and raised in Glasgow, Coffey grew up on a farm. She and her dad, Brian, often can be found in their garage fixing things that have broken down. Although Coffey practices woodworking with her dad, she realized that learning how to weld would be a useful skill for the family farm.
Coffey had the opportunity to learn to weld through the Green County Area Technology Center (ATC) and started taking classes.
“Out of all of the career paths that our ATC had, I thought, ‘Oh hey, welding would be a good skill to have’ and I knew I could use that on the farm and in life,” she said.
She learned about the DYW program through her mom, Joy, an educator at the ATC and Green County High School.
Founded in 1958, DYW is the largest and oldest national scholarship program for high school girls. All participants take part in the DYW Life Skills Workshops to gain skills that will serve them in life beyond high school. Participants are eligible for college-granted scholarships from more than 100 colleges and universities. DYW strives to give every young woman the opportunity to further her education and prepare for a successful future.
Coffey grew up watching women in her community participate in the program and became interested in competing. After registering and attending practices, she competed locally and won with her talent of welding, which she exhibited onstage.
“I would go and watch the other women compete when I was younger and thought it was cool, so when it came time for me to compete, I was excited,” she said.
Coffey, who won the Green County DYW program, is mapping out her future. She is set on majoring in civil engineering in college but hasn’t decided on a school.
Though welding is a skilled and lucrative career, Coffey knew it was an unusual choice for a young woman. She wants to encourage more girls and young women to participate in welding and other trades. One of only seven girls in the program throughout her four years of high school, Coffey said it’s essential for girls to get involved in male-dominated fields.
Welding may be male-dominated for now, but times are changing –and Coffey is looking to lead the way.
“I know there aren’t a lot of girls who participate in welding or other trades. There were over 100 boys and only seven girls in my program. It’s important for girls to get into not only welding, but other CTE careers.”
Visit the DYW website to learn more about the program.