GNTC Graduate Blazes New Career Path for Women Welders


When Georgia Northwestern Technical College’s (GNTC) Yosdel Castaneda receives her diploma in Welding and Joining Technology, she knows that she is helping to forge a new career path for women in that profession.

Castaneda, at 19, was the youngest of eight female students GNTC Welding and Joining Technology instructor Billy Brown had this spring in his class at the Whitfield Murray Campus in Dalton. The Dalton native will turn 20 shortly before she graduates on May 2. GNTC’s Spring Commencement Ceremony will be held at the Dalton Convention Center at 6 p.m.

Yosdel Castaneda will receive her diploma in Welding and Joining Technology on May 2.

“GNTC showed me a career I never thought about and pushed me to be the best I can be,” Castaneda said. She was nominated for GNTC’s Georgia Occupational Award of Leadership (GOAL).

Brown characterized Castaneda as one of the “most intellectually curious and enthusiastic” students he has ever had. He praised her as “tirelessly creative.”

“Yosdel’s passion extends beyond the welding lab and classroom,” Brown said. “During the first month of her first year of classes, she showed her patience and desire to learn the trade. By the end of the semester, she’d completed all requirements and seemed to be hungry for more knowledge in all aspects of the trade.”

Castaneda appreciates receiving the same feedback for her work as her male colleagues do. “I want to be the best, and the only way to do that is by knowing what’s wrong,” she said.

Castaneda said welding intrigued her when she attended a GNTC Industrial Career Day and lost track of time while using a virtual reality welding simulator. Then a Dual Enrollment student at GNTC, she decided to take welding classes at GNTC to explore whether she would like doing the “real thing.”

Welding fused Castaneda’s passion for STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) with the opportunity to study in the field of her choice, thanks to Georgia’s HOPE Career Grant, she said. This grant covers tuition costs in specified high-demand careers at any college in the Technical College System of Georgia (TCSG).

GNTC student Yosdel Castaneda practices in her welding class.

GNTC’s Welding and Joining Technology diploma program, which takes approximately 18 to 24 months to complete. When Castaneda receives her diploma, she will also have earned certificates in Advanced Shielded Metal Arc (SMAW) Welder, Basic SMAW Welder, Gas Metal Arc (GMAW) Welder, Flux Core Arc (FCAW) Welder, Gas Tungsten Arc (GTAW) Welder, Pipe Shielded Metal Arc Welding and Vertical Shielded Metal Arc Welder Fabricator.

The program’s instruction also covers equipment familiarity and safety, blueprint reading, fabrication, structural plate welding, joint techniques and an overview of other metals and alloys, such as aluminum and stainless steel, as well as welding in the flat, horizontal, vertical and overhead positions.

“This program has taught me every skill from how to turn on the machine to how to drop a bead to get a good weld,” she said.

Castaneda said she initially considered being a traveling pipe welder and enjoys TIG Welding, but as she learned more about the field, she realized she “would love to do any welding job.”

She has attended classes at GNTC since her sophomore year of high school, so she knew GNTC would provide the help she needed to make the best career choice.

“Technical education is affordable, trains you for the workforce, shows you all the opportunities available and helps you learn how to do the job the right way,” Castaneda said.

Her sister will attend GNTC after graduating from high school, she said.

“Yosdel amazes me daily. She is always here and always working,” Brown said. “She stays five hours after class many days just to practice. She is at the top of the list to send to any company that is looking to hire,” Brown said.

Castaneda said she is interviewing now for a job in the welding field after graduation.

She also enjoys dancing, drawing, singing and volunteering, including volunteering for high school robotics team competitions and helping elementary students build robots after school.

“Building robots was a distraction for kids if they had bad things going on at home,” she said.

She encourages anyone interested in welding to learn more about it because her curiosity about it led her to change her career direction.

Her parents joke that her hobby has become her career, she said, adding how proud they are of her accomplishments as a first-generation college student.

The most important lifelong lesson she learned from her GNTC instructors was never to give up trying, she said.

“No matter how many times you fall short, stick with it,” she said.

Georgia Northwestern Technical College provides quality workforce education to the citizens of northwest Georgia. Students have the opportunity to earn an associate degree, diploma or a certificate in aviation, business, health, industrial or public service career paths. This past year, 11,601 people benefited from GNTC’s credit and noncredit programs. GNTC has an annual credit enrollment of 8,071 students and an additional enrollment of 3,530 people through adult education, continuing education, business and industry training and Georgia Quick Start. For more information about GNTC, visit us at GNTC is a unit of the Technical College System of Georgia and an Equal Opportunity Institution.