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Makayla Baker: Pioneering Paths for Women in Welding

Woman standing on left welding a piece of metal on right.

In the world of welding, where sparks fly and metal bends to the will of skilled hands, Makayla Baker stands out as a trailblazer. Her journey from a high school art class to becoming a respected welding technician and instructor at the Accelerated Training in Defense Manufacturing Program is a testament to her passion, determination, and resilience in a traditionally male-dominated field.

It all began back in 2017, when Baker's high school art teacher introduced her to the diverse forms of art during her senior year, including woodworking and welding. Initially hesitant, Baker’s interest grew when she collaborated with her class on designing a steel sculpture. As the metal took shape, she realized her true calling – welding.

Her vocational journey took shape when she enrolled in the ATDM welding program. Although she was the only female in her cohort, she embraced every lesson and certification she earned with newfound confidence in her abilities. 

After her graduation in 2021, Baker landed her first job as a welder helper at a small auto repair shop. Being the only woman in a manufacturing setting was daunting, but it was also her gateway into a new world where she found acceptance and camaraderie. 

“I remember going in for my weld test, super nervous, second-guessing everything I did,” said Baker. “My supervisor later came to tell me they’d have me working on the chassis line. They’d never had a female in that department. It’s often the finish line that experienced welders at the shop aspired to. Knowing this came with a lot of pressure. When I came to work, I knew I represented not just me but every woman in the industry. Going in with that headspace, I worked my tail off.”

Her precision and impressive workmanship, which Baker attributes to her ATDM instruction, led her to prestigious companies like John Deere, where she continued to defy stereotypes and excel in her craft, working on the boom line, one of the most advanced welding teams at the company. Baker was the first woman in John Deere’s history to weld at that level. 

Baker's journey wasn't without its obstacles. These higher-level positions and opportunities often came with backlash. Skepticism and negativity from male colleagues was typical, but through perseverance and a positive mindset, she proved her worth and expertise time and again.

“I kept my bubbly personality and let my work speak for itself,” says Baker. When the opportunity arose to work at ATDM, Baker jumped at the opportunity. 

“My past jobs filled my pockets more than my heart, and I wanted to work somewhere that did both,” said Baker. “As a YMCA camp counselor, I’ve always enjoyed being able to lead and help others grow. Getting new batches of students every four months, I get to see that all the time, and there’s truly nothing better.”

Now, as an instructor at ATDM, Baker is passionate about paying it forward and inspiring the next generation of welders, especially women. She believes in creating an inclusive environment where everyone, regardless of gender or background, feels welcome to pursue their dreams. Her story is not just about breaking barriers; it's about empowering others to do the same. Through her advocacy and leadership, she is driving positive change in an industry that is gradually embracing diversity and inclusivity.

As she reflects on her journey, Baker is hopeful for the future of women in welding. While they currently represent roughly 6% of the welding population, she envisions a more equitable future where women play a more prominent role. As an instructor at ATDM, Baker is now a role model for other young women and is actively fostering a supportive environment where everyone is welcoming to each other in her classes. 

“There’s always this stigma with women, and questions about why they aren’t doing a ‘pretty’ trade, like cosmetology or something, and instead working with their hands in a more male-dominated career field. But there’s this new wave of females coming into construction and manufacturing jobs, and they know what they want. They’re here, and they don’t care what you think,” said Baker. “I’m proud to be at the forefront of that. Starting these conversations is what leads women to bigger and better jobs and career opportunities.”

Interested in learning more? Apply online now or schedule a call with an advisor to learn more about how the ATDM program can help you in your career.