Standout student makes time for service and learning

By Britney Hardweare

After serving six years in the Army, former Staff Sgt. Elina Jarvi, 31, is gaining skills from Augusta Technical College to work as a welder, one of Georgia’s high-demand careers.

Jarvi is a full-time student in the Welding and Joining Technology Program, which emphasizes theory and application of welding and prepares students for qualification exams to work in the industry.

Jarvi said she looks forward to how a two-year diploma program can get her into the welding workforce faster than pursuing a four-year degree. By managing her time, she’s been able to continue activities such as playing in regional rugby tournaments and community service. She offered tips for going back to school and attaining training in a high-demand career field.

Q: Why are you so excited about the welding industry?

A: I love being told “complete this project in a timely manner” and seeing the outcome of it. Ideally, my goal is to go into nuclear welding because of the challenges. I was learning MIG Welding (Metal Insert Gas, a type of welding that uses electricity for heat while an electrode or wire is fed through the welded joint, and gases shield the joint from oxygen). It seems easy at first, but it gives challenges. And I like that because I want to overcome it. With welding you can go down all sorts of different avenues.

Q: What specific strategies do you use to make time for studying?

A: Being in the military helped with time management. You have to split up your days and use your free time for studying and bettering your skill. I’ll even watch YouTube videos (about course topics) to help me get ahead. Both of my instructors have 10-plus years on the job and over 20 years in teaching. With all the knowledge they have, I just try to soak up as much as I can.

Q: You’re the only female welder in your class. Does that create obstacles for you as you make your path in a male-dominated industry?

A: I think it’s a benefit because I stand out more. I’m moving metal just like them. I do everything they do and I try to do it a little bit harder.

Q: What would you say to people who are interested in a growing industry, like welding, but may be reluctant to go back to school?

A: Don’t wait. Don’t push it off to next year, don’t wait another month. Just do it.

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