The U.S. economy turned out a sluggish employment report in March that created less than half of the expected jobs.
Despite fears the economy may be cooling, there's a hot job market for welders.
Ashlee Liphardt is discovering the spark for success. That's because the junior at DeWitt Central High is finding a future in welding.
"I'm actually really good at this," she said. "I could make good money, so why not do it?"
Competing Friday with 57 other high school students at Midwest Technical Institute in Moline, she seems to be on the right path. Welding needs more women.
"People say it's a guys' thing, but really it's not," she said. "Sometimes, we can out-weld the guys."
Welding continues to be red hot in a cooling job market. It's not for everybody but can be great for those who like hands-on work.
"Because the Baby Boomer generation is starting to retire and get out of it, companies are kind of scrambling right now for welders," said Trevor Reynolds, 18, a senior at Muscatine High School.
Students like Liphardt are breaking barriers and building careers. It's the kind of career with good pay and potential.
This program takes just 30 weeks. Others begin to work right out of high school.
"At John Deere, you can make between $50-80,000 a year, just starting out," Ashlee said.
"The income potential for these jobs is endless," added Mike Lazoen, Midwest Technical Institute.
As Ashlee tries out a welding simulator, she plans to take advantage of the welding shortage. U.S. companies need to fill thousands of openings.
"The more people that come through here looking to earn a skill, the more people we can put into the jobs and fill positions that are needed," Lazoen said.
When she graduates from high school next year, Ashlee plans to be ready.
"There's plenty of job opportunities," she concluded. "It's going to be around forever."
Welding work to spark her future around the Quad Cities.