Meet the Multitalented Consuelo P. Lockhart

Consuelo P. Lockhart, founder and executive director of the Latinas Welding Guild Inc., discusses her welding beginnings and the path she took to becoming an artist, a welder, and a welding advocate.

AWS Publications | March 24, 2022 | Careers and Education
Welding Digest ►  Meet the Multitalented Consuelo P. Lockhart

Consuelo P. Lockhart, founder and executive director of the Latinas Welding Guild Inc., discusses her welding beginnings and the path she took to becoming an artist, a welder, and a welding advocate.

 

How did you start in welding?

When I was three, I was adopted from Guatemala and brought to the United States. I grew up in Traverse City, Mich. Since I didn’t speak English, I used art as a means to communicate and would draw every day. I always knew I wanted to be an artist and reconnect with Guatemala.

From fall 2007 to spring 2012, I attended Kendall College of Art and Design of Ferris State University, Grand Rapids, Mich. I was going through their functional art program and focusing on woodworking as my primary medium for projects. Our class was challenged to create a table out of a material we had never used or had limited experience with. I was curious about metal and was encouraged by my professor to learn how to weld for the project. The first time I picked up the welding gun, I was hit with anxiety, curiosity, and excitement. I graduated with my bachelor’s degree in functional art and then landed a job as a gallery sales associate at the Grand Hotel, Mackinac Island, Mich.

Photo 1-2Consuelo Lockhart. (All photos taken by Jonathan Galeano.)

 

What happened next?

I started to think about my career options with my degree, which was overwhelming, so I revisited welding. I qualified for a grant through the Michigan Works!® Association to attend an 18-week welding and fabrication program at Grand Rapids Community College, Grand Rapids, Mich. I started my journey with little to no friendly support from other folks in the industry. I saw this as a challenge I would easily overcome, and that started my journey to learning and exploring manufacturing and welding.

Since I’ve been working in the industry, I’ve been able to gain so much knowledge about and insight into the culture, barriers, and opportunities as well as figuring out how to make a positive impact. Exposing the community to this skilled trade has been rewarding because it’s helping people see the industry in a new, vibrant light-filled with career opportunities.

 

What is the Latinas Welding Guild?

The Latinas Welding Guild Inc. (weldingguild.com), an Indianapolis-based nonprofit established in October 2017. The Guild’s goal is to empower women personally, creatively, and economically through welding.

The Guild is a need-based program focused on creating barrierless education and the advancement of women in a field that has traditionally been less accessible to them. We empower our students to take control of their careers as they enter the industry. The Guild also has a goal to mentor, empower, and promote graduates into lead instructor roles for all of its courses while connecting them to other opportunities in the community. To continue our work, we are seeking partnerships with businesses and organizations that share our values and understand the importance of supporting underserved populations.

Photo 2-1The Latinas Welding Guild logo.

 

What do you do at the Guild?

For the first two years of the Guild’s existence, I ran the organization part-time and worked full-time as the director of RUCKUS Makerspace, Indianapolis, Ind. At Ivy Tech in Indianapolis, I taught one semester of a shielded metal arc welding (SMAW) certification course, which gave me the opportunity to gain teaching experience and learn more about certifications. The last two years I’ve spent running the Guild have allowed me to work heavily in the community and speak about welding as a career to a variety of ages and groups.

The Latinas Welding Guild focuses on our women’s welding courses, public workshops, and custom fabrication. This year, I’ve been able to move to a full-time paid position and hire my first full-time paid employee. We are also introducing our equitable employment program to provide affordable training for the development of new welders and support them as they start their careers. I have experienced and heard about some of the backlash women and people of color have received while trying to work as welders. My initial response is to support both the welder and employer to improve the turnover rate. The industry can’t afford to lose talent, and we hope to keep and see more women become long-term employees or leaders.

Being an artist, a welder, and an advocate for welding has been surreal and led me to a rewarding career. The skill has opened so many doors for me and given me opportunities, and I would love to see more women and people of color launch their careers in the industry.

I’m happy to answer queries about inspiring women to join the trade, teaching welding, welding as a career, and more, so email me!

 

This article was written by Consuelo P. Lockhart (consuelo@weldingguild.com / founder and executive director of the Latinas Welding Guild) for the American Welding Society.