Photo by Greg Eans, Messenger-Inquirer.email@example.com Tia Johnson talks about her experience as a welder at her home on Maple Street on Wednesday. She has an associates degree in welding from Owensboro Community & Technical College.Top of Form
BY SUZI BARTHOLOMY MESSENGER-INQUIRER
Jan 23, 2017
Before Tia Johnson graduated from Apollo High School in 2001, she knew she was done with school.
"I got good grades, but I didn't want to go to college," she said.
After graduation, she moved to Jacksonville, Florida, and attended Tulsa Welding School.
Eventually, she moved back to Owensboro and worked in several factories. That didn't suit her, either.
"It wasn't enough for me," she said. She needed a challenge and more money.
"I was working third shift and not liking it," she said.
Her life changed more than two years ago when she happened on to a job fair at the Owensboro Convention Center.
Johnson stopped by Millwright Union 1076's booth.
"I didn't know what a millwright was," she said. "I don't think a lot of people know what they do."
She talked to a representative of the union. He called her shortly after and asked her to apply to the union's apprentice program.
As an apprentice, she has worked many millwright jobs that include the installation, dismantling, repair, reassembly and the moving of machinery in factories, power plants and construction sites.
"I wish I had known this when I graduated from Apollo," she said.
Johnson is more than two years into a three-year apprenticeship with her union.
"It's on-the-job training with pay," she said.
She will graduate from the program with an applied science degree from Ivy Tech in Indiana.
Johnson, 33, would like to get the message to high school graduates who are not interested in a four-year degree but want to further their education with a skill.
"This trade (millwright) is good for women," she said. "You have to keep up with the men, but that's only fair because we earn the same pay as the men.
"I learn something every day," Johnson said.
"While in apprenticeship, we don't work alone," she said. "We work with at least one journeyman."
A person will do well as a millwright if he or she respectful, disciplined and willing to work, she said.
The millwright's creed states: "The person who works with his hands is a laborer; the person who works with his hands and his head is an artisan; the person who works with his hands, his head and his heart is a union millwright."
She said everyone she's worked with is respectful and helpful.