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Positively Chicago: Women Who Weld

(CBS) -- Valerie Galvin bounced from job to job to job until she took up welding. Then the sparks flew.

"The better I got at it, the more I wanted to do it," she tells CBS 2's Roseanne Tellez.

It's all thanks to a program at the Jane Addams Resource Corporation (JARC) that directs disadvantaged job-seekers to fill middle-skills gaps.

"I think that women are not encouraged to think about manufacturing, but the fact is that there are a lot of good paying jobs with good career paths in manufacturing," JARC's Guy Loudon says.

Valerie wasn't just disadvantaged because of her gender, but because of her background, too. She says she suffered from addiction and abuse.

She lost her children and wound up in drug rehab. When she got pregnant with her now-9-year-old daughter, she said enough is enough. That led her to JARC and the job training that brought her to Freedman Seating.

"It's been a transformation," she says.

Childcare, transportation and training were obstacles to other jobs. But JARC steps into help. And the training -- in trades like welding and computer numerical control – is free.

Sometimes the tough part is convincing the women they can do it. But when trainee Sherri Keyes heard the typical perks that come with this type of job -- full benefits, 401k, paid holidays – that helped convince her.

Keyes just got a job.

The executive director says 90 percent of trainees graduate and find jobs; 90 percent will keep them.

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