Blazing a Trail

Kali Wealch

“I wouldn’t be here without the help of so many people—my advisors and instructors. It’s a real team effort.”
— Kali Wealch

WCC student lands key internship with Toyota

According to American Welder Magazine, just six percent of the welders in the United States are women. Kali Wealch, an occupational studies student at Washtenaw Community College, is one of them.

She’s currently putting skills honed at WCC to practical use in a paid internship at the Toyota Technical Center in Saline.

“Not once have I been treated differently in my welding or automotive classes because I am a woman,” said Wealch. “I don’t act like a guy, but I can’t act like a delicate flower either.”

Wealch arrived at WCC in the fall of 2014, as a senior at Whitmore Lake High School. As a dual enrolled student, she combined her high school studies with college classes.

Her first class was an introductory psychology course, but a WCC academic advisor convinced her to follow her passion and take courses in welding and HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning).

Then, a friend told her about WCC’s automotive services program and Wealch was on her way to building the foundation of her non-traditional career path.

At Toyota, Wealch is the first intern to work with welders at the company’s North American Research and Development Monozukuri Prototype Center, which tests automotive parts to ensure they perform properly.

She’s also a national Skills USA medalist for her TIG (tungsten inert gas) welding.

Wealch received an associate degree in May and will continue her studies at WCC, planning to add degrees in both powertrain development and welding and fabrication.

Part of a growing population of WCC students focused on the advanced transportation sector, Wealch hopes to eventually work in a full-time, skilled trades position in the automotive industry.

To date, she’s on the right track.

“Some of my welds are being evaluated by high-level executives who find them of great value,” Wealch said.

“I wouldn’t be here without the help of so many people—my advisors and instructors. It’s a real team effort.”

11,360: Number of welders, cutters, solderers & brazers employed in Michigan.
+9%: Long-term job growth outlook (through 2024), an increase of 1,200 jobs.
Earnings: 25th percentile: $14/hour | Median: $17/hour | 75th percentile: $21/hour
Source: Michigan DTMB


Toyota Technical Center a long-time WCC supporter

The Toyota Technical Center in Ann Arbor is a long-time supporter of WCC and employs WCC graduates, several of whom started as interns.

“WCC students are excellent, high-level technicians that contribute to valuable research and high-end testing,” said Scott Miller, Executive Engineer of Safety and Crashworthiness at the center.

The Toyota Technical Center also funds a WCC student scholarship.

Its $25,000 endowment made in 2016 created a permanent scholarship to support one student every academic year that is pursuing an associate degree in one of three automotive programs: Automotive Service Technology, Automotive Test Technician or Powertrain Development Technician.

The Automotive Service Technology program prepares students for employment in an automotive related technical position or as a certified automotive technician. Students will diagnose and repair malfunctions in automobile engines, suspensions and steering systems, brakes, electrical and electronic systems and engine drivability issues. This program also offers opportunities to explore vehicle performance, diesel, alternative fuel and hybrid vehicles and to participate in the building of performance vehicles. The program prepares the student for the State of Michigan Mechanic Certification tests as well as the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) Certification Exams.

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