In the Scott Community College (SCC) welding lab, sparks fly overhead as an instructor strikes an arc, cutting into a thick piece of metal.
Within a few minutes the red and blue flashes of flame and light subside. The instructor lifts their helmet to inspect the work, revealing long brown hair underneath.
For some, the sight of a female welding instructor may come as a surprise. But for Megan Edens, SCC’s newest welding instructor, this is home.
“I love it,” Edens said.
There is just something special about breathing new life and purpose into what often looks like a big pile of metal.
“I like the hands-on aspect and being able to build something. I’ve built my own car trailer to haul my ATVs by refurbishing trailers people were just going to scrap. I’ve also helped fix my brothers mudding jeeps. It’s come in handy so many times.”
After working as a hemodialysis technician for several years, Edens traded in her scrubs for a helmet and welding jacket.
“Unfortunately, right after high school I did what everyone did and went into healthcare. I even started my nursing degree and halfway through I decided it just wasn’t for me.”
So, she did some research and decided to give welding a try.
“During my high school years I took a lot of dual credit classes, so I kind of looked back on that to see what more I could go into and welding was one option. I already had a couple of classes done because of high school and I was just trying to decide what I would be happy doing. I weighed the pros and cons of different fields and welding is what won.”
She enrolled at SCC, earning an Associate’s Degree in Welding while balancing both her fulltime job and schooling.
“By day I was a hemodialysis technician, by night I came here and welded until nine o’clock at night,” she laughed.
Her new career opened up a lot of opportunities. As soon as she graduated from SCC’s Welding program, she secured jobs in fabrication and then production, before landing a job in automation with Vizient, a Lincoln Electric Company.
“I did robotic programming for a little over a year and I traveled the country. I got to explore. Being with Lincoln Electric, I got to travel to their United States headquarters in Cleveland, Ohio and see their new welding school. That was phenomenal and that was all just with a two-year degree from SCC in welding.”
She began sharing her passion for the craft as an adjunct instructor before transitioning to full-time this fall. Now, her passion for teaching brings her just as much joy as the welding itself.
“I absolutely love the teaching part. One of the plus sides of me going through this program just five or six years ago is that I understand where the students are coming from. I know it’s hard working a full-time job and coming to school and having no social life, but my experience just proves to the students that it can pay off as long as you keep working towards it. I think that really helps them.”
She said while being a female in the industry is not as common, she has never experienced any issues because of it and if anything is able to provide a different dynamic in the classroom.
“Some people kind of levitate towards specific instructors. We all have different vibes and experiences so we may explain things differently. I’ve also had female students that have decided to stay here because I was coming, so kind of having that bond makes a difference.”
Being able to make a difference in the lives of students is what it’s all about. Edens said training the next generation of welders is particularly rewarding because she knows it’s a field with plenty of opportunity.
“A big population is getting ready to retire. And just here in the Quad Cities there are so many welding jobs that are opening. At the end of the day they don’t care if you’re male or female, they just want you to come and weld. You can make a very good career and very good wage in this field.”