If over the course of the past few days, you’ve ridden in a car, traveled across a bridge, or stepped inside a building, you’ve benefited from the work of welders. There’s hardly an industry in existence that doesn’t make use of welded materials, whether its transportation (automotive, shipbuilding and aerospace, for example), energy (mining, petrochemical extraction and refining), defense or construction.
In fact, more than 50 percent of all products made in the United States require some type of welding, according to the American Welding Society (AWS). So, not surprisingly, today’s job market for welders is strong. As AWS Executive Director Ray Shook has noted, “From an overall economic standpoint, it is a great time to become a welder as there are jobs available all over the world,” adding that nearly 100 percent of all welding school graduates find positions right away.
But, surprisingly, these jobs are going unfilled. According to the U.S. Department of Labor today there are 4 million fewer people working in skilled labor positions, such as welding, than there were 20 years ago.
ATE’s Weld-Ed National Center for Welding Education and Training is working to revive the country’s focus on welding and draw attention to this plentiful job market. Located at Lorain County Community College in Elyria, Ohio, Weld-Ed also has nine additional community college and university partners including Chattanooga State Technical Community College, Honolulu Community College, Illinois Central College, North Dakota State College of Science, Pennsylvania College of Technology, Texas State Technical College, Yuba (CA) College, The Ohio State University and Weber State University (Utah).
Weld-Ed helps connect educational institutions and the welding industry, supporting state-of-the-art welding labs and learning-skills resources that are transferable to today’s industrial jobs. Weld-Ed also works to recruit and educate welding technicians.
According to the website Careers in Welding, there are more than 80 different welding processes, including Gas Metal Arc Welding, Gas Tungsten Arc Welding and Shielded Metal Arc Welding. The field is growing increasingly high-tech, with welders now being trained to operate robots and other automated systems that use powerful lasers, electron beams and even explosives to bond materials. Computers and computer software play increasingly important roles in these automated systems. Furthermore, welding is expanding beyond a metal-based field to include materials such as polymers, plastics, ceramics and man-made fibers, among other materials.
And, as crucial as welding is for our economy, it’s also critically important for our safety, as the country works to repair and replace highway bridges, refurbish energy production plants and maintain and construct new petrochemical production and refining facilities, many of which were built over 50 years ago. As ASW Executive Direction Ray Shook told the National Science Foundation Discovery Website, “While economy is always an issue in manufactured products, it is often surpassed by safety concerns in one-of-a-kind constructions. We are bound…to ensure that public structures such as buildings, roads and bridges will perform as intended, and welding plays a big role in making sure that happens.”