Portland Community College | Portland, Oregon Portland Community College

CTE Month: Exploration class sparks interest in welding career for Lopez-Escobar

Story by James Hill. Photos By Ric Getter and James Hill.

Juanita Lopez-Escobar (second from right) with instructor and mentor Kali Giaritta (far right) at the state-of-the-art Rock Creek Campus Welding Shop.

Juanita Lopez-Escobar (second from right) with instructor and mentor Kali Giaritta (far right) at the state-of-the-art Rock Creek Campus Welding Shop.

February marks National Career and Technical Education (CTE) Month, a time when educational institutions like Portland Community College (PCC) shine a spotlight on their vital career and technical education programs. These initiatives celebrate the cutting-edge, rigorous, and relevant training that prepares both youth and adults for a wide array of high-wage, high-skill, and high-demand careers.

The impact of CTE-related support classes and programs can be seen in Juanita Lopez-Escobar. The Forest Grove resident found her passion for welding through PCC’s “Discover Manufacturing and Construction Trades” on-ramp class. Taught at the time by Kali Giaritta, this course proved to be a life-changing experience for Lopez-Escobar. Through the class, she had the opportunity to explore various industries, connect with instructors, and discover her career path.

“They had different companies there that represented welding, manufacturing and construction,” said Lopez-Escobar. “You get to see what is interesting and what works for you and then talk to Kali to see what the program is about.”

welders in action.
Celebrate CTE Month!
  • February is national Career and Technical Education (CTE) Month where Portland Community College and other institutions spotlight their important career and technical education programs. CTE Month celebrates today’s cutting-edge, rigorous and relevant career and technical education programs, which prepare youth and adults for a wide range of high-wage, high-skill, high-demand careers.

Learn More! »

Her journey into welding began in the fall of 2022 when she joined the on-ramp class after discovering a flier from the Employment Department. The experience was eye-opening as she toured a PCC welding class, met instructors, and learned about PCC’s Career Pathways program, which offers stackable, short-term training certificates.

For Lopez-Escobar, welding wasn’t just about earning a living; it was about empowerment and personal fulfillment. She was determined to learn a trade and embarked on her journey into welding with the support of Giaritta and her instructors. Despite facing challenges, including adapting to a new culture and language after immigrating from Mexico, she persevered, driven by the desire to provide a better life for her family.

Through PCC’s Integrated Education and Training (IET) Program in welding, Lopez-Escobar found an efficient pathway to achieve her dream at the new welding shop at the Rock Creek Campus. The program promised to train her in just two terms, with tuition fully covered, allowing her to continue working while pursuing certification.

“‘Discover’ classes are open to anyone in the community who wants to learn more about their options for careers and college,” Giaritta said. “Most people don’t know what a career in machining, CADD, welding, or microelectronics would look like. This class helps students envision the end goal, and helps them map out the path to that goal.”

Lopez-Escobar’s story serves as a testament to the transformative power of educational programs like PCC’s “Discover Manufacturing and Construction Trades” and the IET Program in welding. Despite her background and challenges, she is working diligently towards her welding certification, inspiring others with her dedication and resilience.

Her journey also highlights the demand for skilled welders across various industries. By undergoing welding training, individuals like Lopez-Escobar can secure lucrative career opportunities and job security in fields reliant on welding.

“The beauty of welding is that you can travel the world,” she said. “You can work anywhere if you’re a welder. I had a dream to learn a trade so I could say, ‘I did this! I know how to do this!’”

As she continues her journey, Lopez-Escobar offers words of encouragement to others considering a similar path: “Don’t be scared. There are always people here to help you out as you start something new. Doesn’t matter what age you are, it will be hard, but you can do it.”

Learn more about welding classes at PCC and the careers associated with the industry: https://www.pcc.edu/programs/welding/

People Also Read:
PCC Earns $2.2 Million Boost to Workforce Training

welders weldingThe Future Ready Oregon funding through the Higher Education Coordinating Commission is providing a significant boost for Portland Community College. A grant of $2.2 million to the Community 2 Career (C2C) Program will strengthen partnerships and bolster economic mobility for historically under-served populations.

Mobile Welding Center Ignites Excitement

Welding center chain cutting ceremonyThis donated trailer, which is a partnership between PCC, the PCC Foundation and Union Pacific, extends the reach of the college’s skilled trades training programs by bringing the welding classroom to communities across the region. The new Mobile Welding Outreach & Skills Training Center will provide on-site training at community based organizations, schools, Tribal lands, and correctional facilities.

Hundreds of Students Attend Manufacturing Day

Manufacturing DayPCC’s Manufacturing Day at the OMIC Training Center inspired the region’s future innovators with hands-on experiences. The college and the Oregon Manufacturing Innovation Center teamed up with industry and education partners to offer an open house-style event in celebration of all things manufacturing.