Amy Heitman never imagined she’d grow up to be a welder.
“I didn’t know anything about it,” she told the Fort Scott Chamber of Commerce weekly coffee attendees. “I took a welding course in high school, I grew to have a passion for it.”
Heitman started researching why there weren’t more women welders and found only two percent of welders are women, she said.
“In the war (World War II) women stepped in to do jobs,” she said. “When men came back, women were pushed back. In manufacturing now, it’s predicted there is a shortage of 400,000.”
“I’m a welder and I weigh 107 pounds,” Heitman said. And “I’m building water tanks.”
“We are still building this world, if we don’t have welders and manufacturers, where does that leave America? ”
“I’m encouraging people to step up to non-traditional spots,” she said. “I want to help women know they can step up.”
Heitman welds and fabricates the metal pieces in water tanks that the Niece Equipment builds, she said in a later interview.
“I do some of the internal plumbing on the piping,” she said.
The facility she works in is climate controlled: fans in the summer and heat in the winter.
Heitman said there are 40 employees at Niece and of those, approximately nine are welders.
The salary range for the welding positions range from $15 to $19 per hours, she said.
Heitman, 25, and husband, Josh Heitman moved to Fort Scott from Austin, Texas in January 2018.
She worked for Niece Equipment in Austin and was recruited to Fort Scott.
They have two children, Gabriel and Ayden. Because it was in the middle of the school year, Ayden stayed behind in Austin with his grandmother temporarily. Ayden has autism.
“Because of his autism, I didn’t want to bring him yet, into something completely new…it would throw him off,” Heitman said.
Her first impression of Fort Scott: “I was enchanted,” she said.
“This is the kind of place I want to raise my kids,” she said.
“There is not a ton of things to do like in Austin, but so many things the whole community gets involved in. It’s a beautiful thing.”
Heitman got connected with Fort Scott Community College and together they are working on a plan to talk to high school students that tour the school, she said.
She is going to try to solve the issue of getting more people into non-traditional careers where they are needed.