When Walter Berkowicz started as the Welding Champion for the Three Fires Council of St. Charles, Ill., he looked at the list of Welding merit badge counselors in his council and noticed a trend.
Almost all of them — at least 90 percent — were men.
Wanting to move that gap closer to 50-50, he had the idea for a women-only welding course.
“This was an idea to see if we could increase the number of women Welding merit badge counselors,” Berkowicz says. “I didn’t know if there would be zero, two or five women who would be interested in this. It was a total experiment on my part.”
Turns out women are just as interested in welding — and teaching Welding merit badge — as men. The first-of-its-kind women-only Welding merit badge course saw 26 women register for the 20 available spaces. That’s more than any prior training event, for men or women, Berkowicz says.
The “Welding Merit Badge Counselor Training for Women Only” event took place last month at Lincoln Electric’s training facility in Bolingbrook, Ill.
Lincoln Electric, for those who don’t know, helped develop Welding merit badge and has introduced tens of thousands of Scouts to welding’s hot career potential. In 2013, Lincoln Electric received the BSA’s North Star Award for their efforts.
As for the women-only Welding event, I have a feeling other councils have a similar male-to-female ratio among their Welding merit badge counselors. Perhaps they can take a page from Three Fires Council’s book and host a similar training course.
In Three Fires Council, the effort is paying off. The percentage of female Scout leaders who are registered as Welding merit badge counselors has increased to 32 from 10.
Trying for a world record
What’s next for these newly trained female Welding merit badge counselors? On April 11, they’ll try for a Guiness World Record for the largest welding lesson. As the Chicago Tribune explains, the women-only welding course helped train women to supervise youngsters during the world-record attempt.
Hat tip: Thanks to Joe Harrington and Walter Berkowicz for the story idea and photos.