Kayla Johnson Makes Her Mark in Welding

Meet Kayla Johnson — a 26-year-old journeywoman welder who is not only respected for her quality work but is also a woman who wants to inspire other females to join the trade.

AWS Publications | May 24, 2021 | Careers and Education
Welding Digest ►  Kayla Johnson Makes Her Mark in Welding

Meet Kayla Johnson — a 26-year-old journeywoman welder who is not only respected for her quality work but is also a woman who wants to inspire other females to join the trade.

At the age of 17, Johnson did not know what she wanted to do after high school. What she did know, however, is that the college pathway her friends and parents followed was not for her. After graduation, Johnson moved from job to job, struggling to find something that piqued her interest. This all changed the day she heard about welding, from her father, while she was waitressing in Seattle, Wash. Despite her parents attending a traditional four-year university, they encouraged Johnson to seek a job in the skilled trades industry, knowing she was a hands-on learner and someone who would excel in a fast-paced environment vs. sitting in a classroom.


From Moving to Learning Welding


Despite being apprehensive at first, Johnson dug in to explore more about this male-dominated trade and came across Tulsa Welding School. After much consideration, she took the leap to move cross-country from Seattle, Wash., to Florida and quickly enrolled in the Professional Welder Program at Tulsa Welding School’s (TWS) Jacksonville Campus. The program helped Johnson learn what it’s really like to be a welder while taking part in interactive workshop courses and practicing in welding booths. She was trained in structural welding, flux cored arc welding, and pipe welding. Within seven months, she graduated from the program, and it changed her life forever (Figure 1).

FIG 2Figure 1: Johnson welds, building on the skills learned in school.


A Day in the Life


Today, Johnson works for Circor International in Tampa, Fla. The company is a provider of mission-critical flow control products and services for the industrial and aerospace/defense markets. She works alongside a team of three welders and is in constant communication with the quality manager and welding engineer to work through new processes (Figure 2). Johnson specializes in gas tungsten arc welding and is often turned to for her expertise and ability to weld exotic metals with precision.

FIG 3Figure 2: Johnson is shown with her colleagues at Circor.


Prior to joining Circor, Johnson served as a journeywoman welder for contractors, large corporations, and mass production lines. Now, with the company, she’s recognized as a leader who trains other journeymen because of her diverse expertise and skillset. Recently, she was the first person at Circor to be cross-trained into a new welding position created just for her.


Ingredients for Success


Johnson attributes her success to grit, confidence, and love for her craft. She felt going into a male-dominated industry that everyone would have an eye on her, wanting to know if she had what it took. In fact, during one of her first welding jobs, her supervisor assumed she was the new tool room worker and did not take her seriously at first. This quickly helped Johnson find her voice, and she proved herself with her strong work ethic, team-oriented approach, and confidence in her quality welds.

According to the study “Gender Differences in Motor Coordination at Young Students at Psychology,” women have a higher ability to calibrate, correct, and learn from their errors in motor coordination, making them a strong fit for hands-on jobs like welding. In Johnson’s eyes, this is why welding is an ideal career for women. She believes not only can women do it, but that they may be better at it.

She’s thankful to have such a rewarding career. It’s one that she loves, where she’s never struggled for employment and has the flexibility to enjoy family milestones. Because of job demand and her qualifications, Johnson was able to stay home with her daughter for the first year doing freelance work on the side. It also allows her to enjoy a quality of life, where she has the privilege to take time during the year to pursue hobbies in archery, off-roading, and camping.

“I hope to see more women join the welding industry, especially with the shortage of skilled tradesmen and women,” Johnson said. “It’s a great time for women to jump into a good, high-paying career to show, and there are organizations and schools like TWS to help. I invite them to join me, where together we can show how strong women are in welding.”


What’s Ahead


In May, Johnson will be a guest speaker at the third annual ICARE Summit in San Diego, Calif., where she will speak about her personal experience and goals for the future as well as recruiting more women for the field.

You may follow Johnson’s exciting journey as a tradeswoman on Instagram at @ladyykayy3. She shares the ins and outs of the trade as well as highlights her adventurous life as a young mom.


This article was written by Mary Kelly (president and chief executive officer of StrataTech Education Group, Phoenix, Ariz.).