Watervliet junior fuels her passion for welding at Capital Region BOCES

Lajay York learned about the construction industry working alongside her father, Leon. She built upon that knowledge by watching the TV show “Forged in Fire,” where she gained an appreciation for the art of welding.

Now, the bubbly high school junior is marrying those two passions at Capital Region BOCES, where she hopes to build the knowledge and skills necessary for a career as an ironworker.

A student in a welders helmet is in the midst of welding metal, her torch lit and emitting a bright white and blue glow.
Lajay York’s smile is hidden under a welder’s helmet as she works. Her torch lit and emitting a bright white and blue glow as she works on a piece of metal.

“There’s not a lot of us women in welding, but that just makes me want to do it more,” she said during a recent break from welding.

According to federal labor statistics, only about 5% of the more than 405,000 welders in the U.S. are women.

“I get really excited when I accomplish something because it’s not expected. It’s a guy skill in their mind, but it’s not,” said York.

March is National Women in The Trades Month, and throughout the month Capital Region BOCES Career and Technical School is shining a spotlight on women in the trades, such as Wright, who are challenging stereotypes and building solid futures through their education at Capital Region BOCES.

York said she plans to pursue her passion for welding with some “lofty expectations” for her pursuits in the construction industry.

“I want to be an ironworker. I want to be up high in the air welding. I like heights and I like welding. I like the adrenaline of it,” she said.

York said her time at BOCES has been great. 

“BOCES is like a giant family. Everyone is helpful. If you need help with something, your classmates will come over and help you or your teacher will help you. Even if it’s not in the classroom, people are just really nice and helpful and want you to succeed,” she said.

As part of her welding education, York has taken part in work-based learning with the City of Albany Department of General Services, where, she said, the environment has been equally open and supportive.

“The work is fun. I love it there. The people are helpful, and I am doing some of the things that I have learned here. I have used a torch and a plasma cutter there and we are about to weld a garbage truck,” York said.

Work-Based Learning Coordinator James Haas said York is a good student making the most of the opportunity at BOCES and with the city of Albany.

“It is easy to evaluate a work-based learning location by the demeanor of our students and business partners. Every time I have come in contact with Ms. York or our business partners at OGS, their purpose and joy is clearly expressed. Everyone involved is getting a lot out of this arrangement,” said Haas.

York is among approximately five dozen students enrolled this school year in the Capital Region BOCES Welding and Metal Fabrication program. Students in the two-year program learn American Welding Society standards and earn certifications that prepare them for a career in the welding industry. Located on the Albany Campus this school year, the program is being expanded to the Schoharie Campus for the start of the 2024-25 school year to address the increasing demand among students.

For more information on the Welding and Metal Fabrication program, go to https://www.capitalregionboces.org/career-technical-education/courses-programs/welding-metal-fabrication/.