By: Amanda Pedersen
Family, friends, and peers of Heather Rudiger would describe the 28-year-old as a hard worker.
As a member of the Boilermakers Local #647 union, Rudiger, has worked her way up the ranks, with her sight set on becoming a journeyperson at the completion of her four year apprenticeship.
Even though her brother and father are both electricians, Rudiger decided to attend college at Dakota County Technical College (DCTC) in Rosemount, Minnesota, for welding. After attending a presentation from a boilermaker from Local 647, she applied to the union’s apprenticeship program.
As Rudiger describes it, a boilermaker is an advanced welder and rigger. Boilermakers work both indoors and outdoors, 100 feet up in the air to spaces you can hardly fit, and specialize in repairing, fabricating, and assembling boilers, ranks, vats, pressure vessels, and many other items of the construction process.
Welding had always been a bucket list item for Rudiger, so the job has been a perfect fit.
Now in her third year (out of four) of her apprenticeship as a boilermaker, she gets to weld many things in a variety of locations with other boilermaker apprentices and journey-level people.
Rudiger works mostly on construction-based welding, meaning that she works mostly with big industrial projects, and not so much on pipefitting.
“We weld everything,” said Rudiger. “I never do the same thing twice, I’m always learning something new.”
Her work also allows her to travel to many areas of the Midwest, including North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin, in addition to working on jobs throughout Minnesota.
“We work on power houses, mines, refineries, shipyards, etc.,” Rudiger said. “We use math a lot. There is a lot more math involved with the career than you would think.”
Welding the way for other women
Being a woman in a male dominated industry is not something that bothers Rudiger.
When asked about Rudiger’s work environment, especially in Local 647, she described her relationship with fellow boilermakers as a big family.
“I like the brotherhood feel of the union,” Rudiger said. “Everyone is there for everyone else.”
Find a career that lights a fire inside you. Listen to Heather Rutiger’s construction career experience.
Path to becoming a Journey- Level Boilermaker
To become a journey-level boilermaker, one completes a four-year apprenticeship. While learning the craft of boilermakers during the four-year apprenticeship, Rudiger gets paid to learn. She works anywhere from a 40-hour week to 80 hours a week and takes classes at the union’s training center for three weeks of the year.
Every six months, Rudiger takes a test on the information she learned during the apprenticeship, and when she passes she receives a raise.
In addition to earning while learning, she has healthcare benefits such as medical, dental and vision insurance, and a pension plan for retirement.
Passion for her career
When asked if Rudiger loves her work as a boilermaker, she responds. “Absolutely, this is a career that I’m passionate about.”
To Rudiger, success is finding fulfilling work and experiencing joy in what you do. She strongly feels that she’s doing what she’s meant to be doing with her career.
“If I could give advice to someone deciding what they want to do after high school, I would say to try an apprenticeship out,” said Rudiger. “I felt pressure to attend college to become a nurse and if I could do anything over again, I would have started the boilermaker apprenticeship right after high school.”
With her extra income from her apprenticeship, she can now save for a house, pay off her vehicle and save for retirement.
Interested in a secure life-long career in the construction trades through apprenticeship? Visit https://constructioncareers.org/careers/.