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Is There Really A Welder Shortage?

Friday, June 8th, 2012

Welding Jobs: Help WantedThe shortage of skilled workers has been widely reported, but one economist has challenged this notion. Iowa State University Economist Dave Swenson was quoted in the Des Moines Register as being “baloney.” Citing the fact that Iowa has recovered fewer than half of the jobs it lost in the recession, he said, “The lament about work force shortage is not substantiated to the degree that the rhetoric has gotten play.”

That article has since disappeared from the Internet, but Swenson goes on in another article to explain: “U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics occupational data for Iowa tells us…that Iowa was employing 6,000 fewer metal workers of all kinds in 2011 than it did in 2008. How, then, do we reconcile the claim that industry cannot find enough skilled metalworkers when it appears there are thousands of previously employed metalworkers still idle? Did they all retire?”

Interestingly, he’s not the only one to notice that there are fewer welders and other skilled workers employed in the past few years than there were prior to the recession. The State Of The Welding Industry notedly reported a projected need for almost 250,000 additional welders by 2019. But the executive summary states outright: “The results of a thorough examination of the labor market needs of the welding industry are somewhat deceptive, as they show a decline in the overall number of welding personnel from the period of 2002-2009. However, during that time there were consistently needs in different regions throughout the U.S. for up to 10% of the overall welding professionals to be replaced, predominantly due to retirements.”

I wanted to take it a step further to ask those who know first-hand. Putting the question out to welding industry professionals in Welding & Gases Today’s LinkedIn group, I asked, “Is there really a welder shortage?”

“I have been involved in welding for over 50 years at every level from entry to president. There has been a chronic shortage of skilled welders that entire time,” says Bryant Reed, partner at Advanced Welding Sales.

Sam Mangialardi at Praxair responds, “Speaking to customers and listening to the lack of ‘qualified welders’ is a concern now. The basic qualifications can be met, but as the jobs become more detailed, the lack of skill learned in the schools limit the welder’s capabilities to perform.”

The overwhelming response from distributors, manufacturers, welders and instructors is that there are not enough welders with the skills needed for current jobs.

Scott Laslo, instructor at Columbus State Community College sums up the situation nicely. “As a Welding educator of 7 years and a ‘welder’ for the past 18, I can say that as a society we are tackling a mountain…As a nation, we need to decide if our kids are allowed to get dirty and be respected for doing it.”

Respondents agree that it will take a village—or at least an industry—to bring about change. What do you see as the role of the welding distributor in this situation?

See the entire discussion and share your opinion in the LinkedIn Group here.

LinkedIn Vs. The Business Card

Tuesday, March 6th, 2012

Business Cards Vs. LinkedInWith GAWDA’s Spring Management Conference fast approaching, many of you are probably readying your business cards. However, there has been some talk recently that LinkedIn could threaten the existence of business cards. In our “On The Edge” feature at Welding & Gases Today Online, we was asked that very question: Are business cards on the way out? For many, Social Media presents a more convenient and instantaneous result. But until LinkedIn has close to 100% of the market, I have to think that most people will continue to carry business cards.

A recent article on Bloomberg Businessweek called “How Business Cards Survive In The Age of Linkedin” got me thinking about the issue once again. The article explains that business cards were originally created as a means to prove a business’s legitimacy. But as Design Strategist Nathan Shedroff, points out, just about anyone can procure a professional-looking business cards these days. This, according to the article, is where LinkedIn reigns. The professional networking site allows more than contact information, it allows an entire resume and professional references. What better way is there to prove one’s legitimacy than a resume with references?

Business cards, on the other hand, are simple. An online business card printer tells Bloomberg Businessweek, “They don’t require batteries, experience no intercompatibility problems, require no sign-up, and everyone in the world understands them.” Some tout the ability of the business card to allow self-expression and branding. Despite the lack of actual “artwork,” I would argue that your LinkedIn page can say a lot about your brand as well.

Another argument for business cards suggests it’s the act, “the theater,” of exchanging a business card that keeps the business card alive. I have to admit, in my experience, while attending a trade show, business cards do feel a bit like currency.

Amidst all of this debate, is there really a need to choose sides—why not have both? For those who prefer paper, offer them a business card. If you’ve spent some time brushing up your LinkedIn page, asking someone if they are on LinkedIn could be a great conversation starter.

What do you think? Do you prefer LinkedIn or business cards? Which do you think is more effective?

The Evolution Of The Business Card

Friday, August 12th, 2011

The Evolution Of The Business CardIn our most recent On The Edge article—or should I say video—“Business Cards May Be On The Way Out,” Jeffrey Gitomer shares an anecdote about the changing face of business networking. He questions whether business cards are obsolete. Could they be replaced by the professional networking site LinkedIn?

It’s an interesting proposal. Afterall, the first thing I did when I got back from GAWDA’s Spring Management Conference this spring was to take the business cards I had gotten and looked the names up on LinkedIn. After that, I connected with a handful of others who I met but did not have business cards for. So I can see where he’s coming from.

Then again, business cards are evolving, too. On some business cards, we’re beginning to see QR (quick response) bar codes, that can be used to refer smartphone users to a website—it could even be a LinkedIn page. On the back of my business card, for example, is a code that directs users to my blog. This is a nice feature of QR codes: the ability to direct users to a long and complicated URL. Before, business cards were pretty much limited to a basic company website. Now, the possibilities are without limit.

Maybe rather than replacing them, LinkedIn is just simply raising the bar for business cards—challenging us to think differently about how to maximize the real estate of a 3.5” x 2” piece of paper. What do you think? Will LinkedIn make business cards obsolete?

Opening The Door For Honest Feedback

Tuesday, July 12th, 2011

As Colleen Mahoney wrote on the Young Professionals blog yesterday, LinkedIn can be a powerful tool. The Noble Gas Solutions marketing communications manager says she has used it to find contacts at cold calls and to build the distributor’s network. I couldn’t agree more with Colleen’s assessment.

In fact, for our latest Welding & Gases Today cover story, we used LinkedIn to reach out to welding and gases end-users. Traditionally, social media has been used to keep in touch with people you know. But here’s a little secret: social media is the perfect way to get introduced to people you want to know. In this case, we used LinkedIn to gain introductions to welding engineers, purchasing managers and other end-users. And wouldn’t you know—it opened doors and ultimately helped us get some great comments about what end-users really look for in a distributor.

Their comments were honest and to the point—no holds barred. “I don’t want an automated relationship,” says one end-user. When you give your customers a chance to provide honest feedback, the results can be powerful. To read all of their comments and find out what your customers want, you can check out the article online, aptly titled, “What Your Customers Really Want.”

How do you use social media platforms like LinkedIn to help your business? Have you ever used it to help make a sale?

Your Customers Are Doing It. Are You?

Tuesday, March 29th, 2011

Dive Into Social Media SuccessLinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, blogs…whether you use all or some of them (if you’re reading this, you’re doing at least one), there’s no denying that social media has an important place in marketing. A new survey of small businesses by American Express OPEN and SEMPO shows that social media trails only company websites as the favored online business marketing tactic.

In talking to GAWDA members about how they plan to market their companies, the number one response is word of mouth. You’re not alone. According to the OPEN/SEMPO survey, 82 percent of respondents say that they rely on word of mouth to attract new customers. Well guess what? Social media is word of mouth!

Those of you who are already on social media, I want to hear about it. Specifically, I want to know if social media has ever led to a sale for your company. Maybe someone responded to a tweet or a blog. Maybe you connected with an old friend on LinkedIn or Facebook, only to find out that person is a potential customer. Whatever the case may be, please share your social media success stories.

To support your social media efforts, Welding & Gases Today has added a new section to its website specifically for articles on social media. In this section, there are great articles on LinkedIn, best blogging practices, Twitter and other platforms. Check it out, there’s some great stuff there, and it’s only going to continue to grow.

Social Media Regulations…From FDA

Tuesday, January 11th, 2011

FDA's social media regulationsAmong the more unusual regulations that we might see in 2011, FDA is slated to publish draft guidance on the use of social media. Yes, you read that correctly. A recent message from the Division of Drug Marketing, Advertising, and Communications (DDMAC) says that the division has “been researching draft guidance topics on the following issues related to Internet/social media promotion of FDA-regulated medical products:

• Responding to unsolicited requests
• Fulfilling regulatory requirements when using tools associated with space limitations
• Fulfilling post-marketing submission requirements
• Online communications for which manufacturers, packers, or distributors are accountable
• Use of links on the Internet
• Correcting misinformation”   (via EyeOnFDA.com)

The agency is targeting a publish date of 1st Quarter 2011, so we should see this very soon. One bullet points specifically to the online communications of distributors, so this will impact those GAWDA members who manufacture or distribute medical gases.

I was surprised to learn that the FDA was stepping into the realms of Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, et al, but it does make sense to a certain extent—social media are largely unregulated. We’re in a new age with social media, and with it come unique challenges. Bullet #2 raises an intriguing point: how do you meet regulations when Twitter limits your characters?

I’m still undecided on this, but I want to hear what you think: Has the FDA overstepped its bounds, or do you welcome the idea of social media guidelines? What social media issues would you like guidance on?

How To Use Job Sites As A Networking Tool

Wednesday, July 28th, 2010

Recently I came across an article about how to buy technology for small businesses. The article has a lot of great points, but there is one tip that struck me as entirely innovative.

Article author Gene Marks points out that hardware reviews are readily available in magazines, but when it comes to business software applications and services, it can be hard to find reliable testimonies. What to do? Marks says to log onto job search sites such as Monster.com and CareerBuilder.com and search for the software’s name in job postings.

With any luck, you’ll come across a company seeking candidates familiar with your software, which means that the company uses the software. Then, call up the company and ask them what they think: Do they like the software? What has their experience been like? How’s the tech support? Many companies will be glad to help, and best of all, they have nothing to gain by being dishonest.

This is a brilliant and innovative way to use networking to your benefit. Taking advantage of other people’s experience is one of the most tried and true ways to get ahead in any industry. Maybe it’s the colleague who has worked in the business for thirty years that you turn to; but who says you are limited to those people to which you have direct access?

Think outside the box—learn from anyone you can. In my experience, everyone in GAWDA, from green salespeople up to the company presidents, is willing and happy to share their knowledge and experiences. This is the greatest resource the association has, so why not use it? With technology, networking is easier than ever, thanks to sites like LinkedIn and Twitter. Based on Marks’ advice, you could even add job search sites to that list.