Next Up: Certified Welding Inspector
Although she had a bachelor’s degree in hand, Clarissa Perry was unsure about her career path. A soul-searching six months of hiking the Appalachian Trail connected her with tradespeople who sparked her next move: learning how to weld.
Clarissa Perry had attained the dream of many young people — a four-year degree from a well-regarded university. But she was unsure about her career path. She took six months off to ponder her options while hiking the Appalachian Trail. That soul-searching trip connected her with tradespeople who sparked her next move: learning how to weld.
Now five years after earning Brightpoint’s one-year welding certificate, Clarissa oversees an industrial welding crew at Atlantic Constructors Inc. (ACI) and has zeroed in on one of her career’s most respected credentials: certified welding inspector (CWI).
Here’s how she found the confidence and support to finally create the life she wanted:
Go back to the drawing board.
Clarissa first attended Brightpoint as a homeschooled 16-year-old high school graduate. Brightpoint served as her stepping stone to completing her core courses before transferring to Virginia Commonwealth University and earning a bachelor’s degree in English.
“Brightpoint was the largest school I’d ever gone to,” Clarissa said. “It was wonderful to be in a community that wasn’t just people my age. All of a sudden, you encounter all these new ideas and people with completely different life experiences. The diversity of people broadened my world.”
When she returned to Brightpoint from her Appalachian Trail trek, she was laser-focused on completing the welding program. Recognized by the American Welding Society, the program demands that its students achieve the highest standards.
Choose a career that fits the life you want.
Brightpoint is a place where students feel comfortable speaking openly with mentors about career — and life — goals, Clarissa soon discovered.
“My teacher talked candidly about the different options for work and what life would look like with each option,” Clarissa said. “It was a practical discussion about lifestyle expectations, pay, daily work environment and how the career would fit with my temperament. This was very real and something no one else ever bothered to discuss with me.”
Clarissa explored a range of work/life questions: What do you want your daily life to look like? Do you expect to have children? Do you want to be home every night or are you okay with travel? Will this line of work be harmful to your body later in life? And if so, then what?
“My teacher was willing to share his experiences, so I knew some of the pitfalls to avoid,” Clarissa said.
“Everyone in my class was offered the opportunity to discuss career placement, and after I graduated, I was introduced to a company that would hire me and continue my training.”
Seek advice from veterans in the field.
During class, Clarissa met visiting alumni who were eager to share their job experiences. She also leveraged her relationships with her instructors and alumni to catch the eye of ACI hiring managers. Now she not only has a satisfying job but she’s a role model for current Brightpoint welding students.
“Brightpoint has sent multiple people to that company,” Clarissa said. “Everyone in my class was offered the opportunity to discuss career placement, and after I graduated, I was introduced to a company that would hire me and continue my training.”
Make yourself more marketable.
A new mother of a baby boy, Clarissa is considering how her career can continue to evolve to meet life’s demands.
“I’ve set a lot of goals, and I’ve hit them,” Clarissa said. “I wanted to not only be a welder but to serve in a supervisory capacity eventually, and I’ve made it!”
Her next goal is to become a CWI — a role that examines the bonds and connections between metals and upholds the standards of the trade.
“Even though you’re in school to become a welder, certification opens up doors to careers that you wouldn't necessarily think about, like in general contracting and safety,” Clarissa said.
Not only can CWIs work well into their elder years, but they are scarce enough that companies seek them out.
Story first published September 2022
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