First female welder

Solveig Erikstad is a pioneer, being one of the first female welders at Ulstein. Employed in 1974, she got recruited through an ad in the local newspaper, aimed at housewives. One of the baits was free kindergarten. When retiring in 2003, she had been at Ulstein for 29 years.

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At times, finding enough qualified manpower in industry has proved to be a challenge. In Ulstein’s in-house magazine “Ulsteinposten” Issue 3, 1977, managing director Idar Ulstein displayed a rational approach to the problem: “Instead of importing manpower, it is preferable to aim to improve employment in the local municipality – especially among women – by way of training. This will result in less pressure on the municipality with regard to schools, house-building and social and health services.”

Women made their entrance at the workshop and dock in 1974 when twelve female welders were employed after serving their apprenticeships in the company. After that it wasn’t long before women were employed in every department. This was deliberate policy on the part of the management.

Over to Solveig and her story: 
In autumn 1974, a large article in the local newspaper Vikebladet caught the attention of Solveig Erikstad. Housewives were invited to attend an information meeting about a welding course for females.

"Free kindergarten and the opportunity to work part-time, made is possible for us to accept the course and job option. At the time, I was 34, and at home with a boy aged six and a nine-year-old at school," comments Solveig.

"We were paid while being coursed, and had an hourly wages of NOK 16 per hour. (Approx 2 dollars.) The female welders' first work task was to build an iron barrack which was later used as a break room. It was mostly used by the foremen, though. There was no canteen, so the rest of us ate our lunch in the wardrobe," says Solveig.

"The female welders were very welcomed. Our fellow male workers helped us whenever they could, even if some were sceptical of us. Some of the women left after a while, but new ones came, including several young ones."

"I received my certificate in electrode welding after one year, together with 3-4 others. I felt quite happy about that. Later, we learnt to use gas, CO2, when welding, and that was a whole new world to discover. They only use gas nowadays. I also learnt to weld the ship hull, and enjoyed very much being high up from the ground. I had no scare of heights," recalls Solveig.

She had a long career at Ulstein, and retired in 2003.