Lola Duallo, 18, of Manahawkin, is a senior in the two-year welding program at Ocean County Vocational Technical School in Toms River.
While she is not the only female in the OCVTS welding program, she is indeed unique: Ms. Duallo is the first woman to be accepted into the Atlantic City Ironworkers Local Union 350 apprenticeship program. She begins her training this summer.
Lola became interested in welding through a friend who had completed the OCVTS program, and who suggested that it could be a great opportunity for her, too.
She trains daily with 14 other students, all of whom are male. “I’m the only female student in the afternoon session but that doesn’t bother me,” she said. “I come to class to work hard and everyone is treated the same.”
When a representative from Local 350 came to speak to the welding classes about career opportunities, OCVTS welding instructor Jim Mansfield encouraged his students to submit their applications.
Lola traveled to Atlantic City early one morning in April to stand in line to get her application. She was interviewed and tested, and it was clear that her abilities and the certifications she obtained at OCVTS exceeded the expectations of the examiners.
“We are looking forward to working with Lola,” said Raymond Phillips, the president of Atlantic City Ironworkers Local 350. “She seems to be a confident and well-rounded individual who has had some very good training, and we are excited to build on the training that she already has.
“Lola, like all the other applicants will have a terrific opportunity to have a good career as long as she continues to work hard and stay focused. I would like to wish Lola and all of the applicants that were accepted into our program the best of luck,” he said.
In terms of advice to other young women who may be interested in non-traditional career paths, Lola had some very practical suggestions:
“I’m sure it won’t always be easy, but this was something I really wanted to do,” she said. “I just plan to work hard and do my best. I’m only 18 and there are so many opportunities that are now available for me. It’s really exciting.”