Tales of the Trades shares just some of the millions of stories in the skilled industrial trades, shining a bright light on the hard-working tradesmen and women who build, operate and maintain the world we live in. We also focus on the individuals and organizations working hard to advance industrial sectors and ensure their success over the coming decades.
Meet Abby Frisk. Abby is an Industrial Welding Technology student at Fox Valley Technical College in Oshkosh, Wisconsin and one of four recipients of our inaugural Rock the Trades Scholarship grant. Growing up on her family’s dairy farm and watching her family weld, Abby decided to pursue welding in high school and her passion for the trade has only continued to grow. In 2021, she was selected to be a student representative at the American Welding Society Leadership Symposium in Miami, Florida. Abby’s love for welding has led her to become very involved with the American Welding Society and her local Fox Valley AWS chapter, and she is committed to creating a career where she can work in the aerospace field and eventually become a certified welding inspector.
What led you to pursue a career in the trades, and specifically your chosen industry?
I grew up on my family’s 100 head dairy farm in Wisconsin, where I’d watch my dad and my brother weld in our farm shop, so I always was interested in welding. I started taking welding in high school and really got into it. I’d take the next welding class, then start welding on things at home and take scrap metal and make things like little critters. The whole process of welding really intrigued me. At the same time, I got involved in aviation in high school. My initial plan was to pursue aviation and become a pilot, but I knew I liked welding, so I have been more than thrilled with this decision and where it has taken me. It’s just fantastic.
What excites you the most about the trade you’re pursuing?
I mean, you’re playing with fire! You’re melting two metals together! It’s fascinating. I’ve been able to learn more about welding through school, and there are so many avenues in the welding industry: robotics, education, inspection, etc.. There is so much you can do, and you don’t have to limit yourself to anything.
What is the most rewarding part of learning your trade?
It’s definitely a combination of both achieving certain techniques and also the community aspect of the trade. Being able to successfully do things and pass tests, and also having the support from other welders. The welding community is one of my favorites, because they’re so helpful and so friendly, and they’re willing to share information with you and want you to succeed. I’ve made a lot of great friends within the welding community already.
What are the most challenging parts of getting started in your trade?
The technique can be challenging, and you can get frustrated and wonder why you’re not getting it… but it all takes time. You have to keep working at it. You may not get it today, but your brain is learning a new skill, so you have to give your brain time to figure out how to walk the puddle or feed the fill rod. You have to have patience and keep going. If you need a break, take a break – but get back at it and keep practicing. The more you practice, the more it’s gonna stick.
Monday through Thursday of my first week of class, we went through our safety class, then Friday we could finally get in the lab to start welding. I didn’t have a lot of experience with setting up the machines and the parameters to run out. A lot of my classmates had that kind of experience, so they’re up and running, but I’m over in my booth and had no clue. Now, it’s really cool to look back even a month and see how much progress I’ve made. It’s crazy!
What does it take to be successful at what you do?
Perseverance and showing up even though you don’t want to. It’s also important to remember that there’s a reason that things in welding are done the way they are.
What are your thoughts on the state of the trades right now industry-wise?
I have definitely seen a lot more interest in welding recently, because I’m in the field where this stuff is being shared. The trades are not what people made it out to be years ago. Between Rock the Trades and other tradespeople on social media, there are plenty of interesting opportunities across industries for people to get interested and get involved in a trade.
Any advice for those thinking about taking up an industrial trade?
One thing that I really enjoy doing and found incredibly helpful is talking to people. If it’s something that you’re interested in, find somebody who’s already doing that and talk to them, because they’re going to have so much information to share with you. They can point you in the right direction. I would also recommend taking an introductory class on the trade to see what it’s about.
If there isn’t anything that you want to be a part of, go and do it on your own. The American Welding Society has student chapters, and my main focus has been to start a student chapter here at my college. We actually just had our first meeting last week! I wanted to have that kind of community here at school and create camaraderie with my fellow welding classmates because we have 3 different welding campuses, so now we’ll all be able to work on projects together and get to know each other better.
What would you like to accomplish or your career to look like?
I am still super interested in aviation, so I would like to do something that combines both of those to work in aerospace. I also have an interest in becoming a CWA certified welding inspector, but I need more experience before I’m able to do that. I’m someone who is very committed. Whatever I say I’m going to do, I follow through with it and do it to the absolute best of my ability.
Last but not least: what’s your favorite way to spend your free time?
I enjoy reading a lot, so I love to read. When I’m not at school, I’m usually at home working on the farm, hanging out with my cows and that sort of thing. I really love welding, so I’m always excited to figure out what I can make next!
Our thanks to Abby for making the time to share her story.
Learn more about our Rock the Trades workforce development initiative and our Scholarship.