Is Welding a Dying Trade?

By June 23, 2016 Article, Technology No Comments
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^ Training under Experienced Welders is Invaluable for Rookie Welders
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Although President Obama later apologized to an art history professor, he was only echoing the truth when he said folks can make a lot more by learning a trade than with an art history degree.

Blame it on negative perceptions since the 1970s. Blame it on the get-rich-quick mentality. Young Americans don’t look at welding with promising eyes.

Manufacturing built the U.S. economy between 1900 and 1950. Outsourcing, automation, and cheap imports shrunk the manufacturing sector in the 1970s. Welders were suddenly unwanted.

Americans now saw welding as a dirty, lowly profession. Their focus shifted to college degrees.

Companies wound up welder training programs. High schools directed students to colleges. The result: only 357,400 welders in 2012 vis-à-vis 570,000 in 1988.

Manufacturing gathered steam when the economy began to recoup in 2009, spurred as it was by the return of manufacturing jobs and the demand created by long-due infrastructure upgrades.

A generation of neglect now hit us. Welders were highly sought after. The American Welding Society (AWS) expects this dearth to hit 290,000 by 2020 and 400,000 by 2024.

Practical welding is an art you master over time. With the average age of a US welder at 55, more are retiring and less are getting in. Neither can the old-hands postpone retirement, for welding demands physical fitness.

    Acute Welder Shortage Plagues the U.S. Manufacturing Sector     Image Courtesy of CTRLH at shutterstock.com

Acute Welder Shortage Plagues the U.S. Manufacturing Sector Image Courtesy of CTRLH at http://www.shutterstock.com/pic-434799847/stock-vector-welder-wanted-we-are-hiring-work-with-us-blue-grunge-label-badge-icon-print-colors-used.html?src=32l6hePI5eOsFmtDGqam9A-1-2

And the shortage is one of skilled welders. Companies reject half welding applicants for skill deficit. This unskilled oversupply is why entry level welder wages aren’t rising.

Skilled welders can start with $36,000 a year. This rises to $100,000 and beyond with experience and for specialized applications.

College degrees are great but graduates aged 25-34 make only marginally more, $46,900 a year. If their degree finds them a job, that is. Anyway, they are already heavily indebted.

Debt per student in 2016 stands at $37,172 and is an issue in the current presidential election.

With unemployment rate at 4.7% in May 2016, the unemployed have a great opportunity to get into welding. This is not a get-rich-quick job though.

The AWS is working with the industry, high schools, and policymakers to bridge the skills gap, numbers gap, and the perception gap.

Companies are running training programs and upgrading existing welders even as policymakers support training partnerships through the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act 2014.

Fume extraction technologies and greater use of computers will make welding cleaner even as helmets make it safer. And the demand means wages can take an upward trajectory only.

Is welding a dying trade? No, definitely not. The astronomical demand will revive it. All stakeholders are already burning oil well past midnight for the revival.

Plus, welding is the ultimate permanent fastener that is without any real substitute simply because it bonds materials at the molecular level. That deep!

As the supplier of sterling machining services for marine and industrial engineer and as a growing company, Kemplon Engineering is constantly looking to engage with creative welders and other machinists.

You can apply at jobs@kemplon.com for an exciting career.