How did you get into welding and fabrication?
The idea was conceived in 2010 when I was working in a fabrication company in Lagos as a market canvasser. My area of responsibility, though was to scout for customers because the company was into big time industrial welding and fabrications. Despite the fact that I was not a welder,then I took time off to visit our workshop. Each time I visited the workshop I watched with interest how iron was fabricated. I was taking note of all my observations. At a point I had to buy a note book in which I was making my jottings. Nobody noticed what I was doing but I knew at the back of my mind that one day I would go into that trade.
I left the company in late 2014 and came to Port Harcourt. Immediately I arrived Port Harcourt I was able to convince some people about the skill I had acquired. I was given a space in a big workshop and from there I started cutting and fabricating wrought iron which I displayed by the road side.
How do you feel venturing into a trade seen as a preserve of men?
I feel bold and proud doing what I am doing. I don’t feel uncomfortable at all because this is a creative skill I acquired to help myself and my siblings. There are no jobs in the country so the best thing to do is to acquire a skill to engage yourself. I feel very happy doing what I am doing. I feel very proud being called a welder. The earlier problem I had at the beginning was the electrode sparks but I overcame that long ago and God is helping me.
What are the challenges you are facing at present?
The present difficult economic reality in the country is not anybody’s friend and it is affecting our business. People have priority needs and what Nigerians are battling with now is how to take care of their basic needs such as food, shelter and all that. Some of our works are more of elitist demand. We are into construction of gates, carport, tank stand, irons doors and protectors. Some of these products do not fall within the daily needs of Nigerians. So those who are supposed to patronize us are grappling with the present economic difficulties and it is affecting our business. We also have the problem of power generation. Electricity supply in Nigeria is a mirage. We run our welding machines on generating sets and that cost a lot of money. We spent so much money on diesel. We want government to assist us in the area of power generation.
Is the business profitable?. How much profit do you make?
Some of our products are very expensive. Like a 16 feet gate cost as much as N200,000 to construct. A carport that can accommodate one car cost between N150,000 to N170,000. The cheapest gate cost N100,000. When we deduct our expenses we still have something to take home. It has not been bad. God has been helping us. It is through this business that I pay my school fees in the university and also take care of my younger siblings.
As a student how do you cope with the welding job?
I know how to go about the two and no one has ever clashed with the other. I have a timetable for my courses in the school and I never miss any. When it is time for lectures I go for my lectures and my welding work never affects it. I also have people who work for me; they are always there in my absence.
Do you face any kind of intimidation from the men?
No. Nobody intimidates me,rather men encourage me to succeed. You know, when people see you doing something that looks extraordinary and strange to them, they will always encourage you. So there is nothing like intimidation as long as you know what you are doing and what you intend to achieve.
What advice do you have for youths out there?
My advice to them is to acquire skills and be creative. They should stop looking for white collar jobs. They should try as much as possible to create jobs for themselves. They should learn a trade and develop skills. Job creation and skill acquisition are the only way out for the present day economic difficulties.
Also, I want government to assist youths in developing skills. Skill acquisition centres should be set up by government where youths can acquire various skills.