Erica Furlan, Sheridan’s School of Skilled Trades’ first female valedictorian, didn’t give much thought to entering a male-dominated field when deciding to apply to the Welding Techniques Program.
Her goal in high school was to pursue chemistry as a career, but due to some health issues, she didn’t get the marks she needed to continue on that path. While considering her options, it was suggested to her that welding was a lucrative option worth exploring.
“Tradespeople are the people who are building the world around you.” – Erica Furlan
Furlan contemplated pursuing welding, researching the trade and coming to realize that it involved aspects of chemistry with metallurgy and gave her the opportunity to work with her hands.
As for being a female welder, she says she didn’t put too much thought to it, although she did notice the imbalance of men and women when she started attending classes. Some of her instructors also commented that they were excited to see more women entering the program.
Regardless, Furlan received encouragement and support from her instructors and peers throughout her time at Sheridan. “No one was dismissive and it seems that it was a non-issue,” she says. While the idea of being a female welder never struck her as being exceptional, what did surprise her was being selected as valedictorian and being the School of Skilled Trades’ first woman to hold that title.
While she considers herself a “welding nerd,” something she says endearingly as she’s so passionate about her trade and is continually seeking out new information, Furlan didn’t think she had the grades to be valedictorian. Daniel Liao, Associate Dean of Sheridan’s School of Skilled Trades is quick to note her significant contributions while in her program that made her deserving of the recognition.
“Erica had a GPA over 3.0, she overcame multiple barriers in her journey through the program, she participated actively in student life and she sought out ways for skilled trades students to be better integrated into campus events given their demanding course load,” says Liao.
When asked what she would tell young women in high school if she were asked to talk to them about considering a trade as a career option, Furlan’s response, not surprisingly, contained no reference to gender. “Tradespeople are the people who are building the world around you. If you’ve ever lived in a home, you’ve experienced the work of multiple trades people – electricians, carpenters, welders,” she says. “Welders in particular help build structures that can last for decades. Many people don’t often notice these things and might not realize how valuable they are in society.”
Since graduating from Welding Techniques in the fall of 2019, Furlan is now applying her skills, working for The Taylor Group building aluminum frames for trade shows.
Read Erica Furlan’s Valedictorian Speech delivered at Convocation. Learn more about skilled trades programs at Sheridan including Welding Techniques.
Pictured at top of page: Erica Furlan speaking as valedictorian at Sheridan Convocation.
Story written by: Michelle Podd, Digital Content Specialist in Sheridan’s Faculty of Applied Science and Technology.