Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, some people are finding and taking advantage of opportunities. One of those people is Franceska Armstrong from Dayton, Ohio.
After a line of jobs working in factories, Armstrong found a position in robotics welding. Her father had been a welder and becoming a welder had been a dream of hers. Just when she found the start of her path, life threw her a curveball. She was laid off.
“That was the spark that ignited my passion,” she said.
Determined to continue her dream career path, Armstrong approached Hobart Welding School in Troy, Ohio.
“I asked how I could get into school, and at the time, I didn’t have any money,” she said.
Hobart Welding School referred her to Montgomery County’s Workforce Development division, housed at The Job Center on Edwin C. Moses Blvd. in Dayton. Because of the demand for welders and Armstrong being laid off, she qualified for a grant through the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), which paid for her to attend and graduate from welding school.
“I wanted a career that I wouldn’t have to worry about living paycheck to paycheck,” she said. “This was an incredible opportunity for me.”
The next step: math. Armstrong knew it was a weakness, describing math as “a foreign language,” but she also knew she’d need to pass an entrance exam to even get started at Hobart. She didn’t give up. She started working with a tutor through the WIOA Lab at The Job Center, a tutoring service provided by Miami Valley Career Technology Center.
She passed the exam, and started her coursework at Hobart. Over time, everything clicked.
“I could really tell a difference as I went through the program. I could even tell from pictures that I was getting better. You can see how my stance got more confident.”
Her struggles were only exacerbated by her gender, but her passion for welding shone through.
“I was the only female graduate in my class,” she said. “I feel empowered being a female in such a male-dominated trade.”
After graduation, it was her skills, and not her gender, that impressed employers. Armstrong hit the job market, did interviews and welding tests. Within weeks, she had three potential jobs before she chose Techmetals in Dayton.
“Welding is challenging, and I think that’s why I’m so passionate. I can fail a thousand times, but once I lay that perfect bead, I feel accomplished and proud.”
Armstrong saw her layoff not as the end of her path, but as the beginning. And she says it’s all for her two dogs: Ace and Rusty.
“I love my dogs more than anything in this world. They are like my children,” she said. “They’ve motivated me to do better. I want to give them the life they deserve: a huge backyard to run and play.”
Armstrong isn’t the only person who has benefitted from a job training grant from Montgomery County. Many who have experienced a layoff have gone on to get CDLs, nursing grants, IT certifications, and more.
To learn more about this program, contact us.