Recruiting Welding Personnel Remains Key Need

While strong and rapid financial recovery seemed likely in 2011, this predicted trend has been complicated by a number of factors. The world financial picture remains volatile and uncertain, as evidenced by the recent economic protests in Greece, Italy, Spain and Germany, as well as the “Occupy” protests in many U.S. cities. On the plus side, the overseas protests seem to be related to governments around the world trying to manage their budgets and debt, rather than companies struggling to manage their business. For the most part, the private sector both here and abroad appears to be operating efficiently, and earnings have been strong for many companies, with healthy accumulations of cash. What we are presently facing on the economic front appears to be a confidence issue—one that will take some time to resolve.

Skilled Workers Needed for a Healthy Economy
AWS  is extremely optimistic about 2012, and we are definitely “bullish” on more welding jobs becoming a reality this year. A recent article on the National Science Foundation website written by NSF’s Ellen Ferrante underscores this view. Titled “Weld-Ed Sparks Training and Development for Welding Students and Educators,” the story references President Obama’s June 9, 2011, visit to Northern Virginia Community College, where he announced the goal of providing 500,000 more skilled workers for the manufacturing industry within the next five years. I was privileged to represent the welding industry at this event, and the strongest message I received from President Obama was the importance of having credentials that ensure an individual has a specific body of knowledge and the demonstrated skill to do a job. This crucial foundation of skills gives employers confidence that newly hired employees will provide value, allowing the company to become more productive and more competitive in the global market.

Recruiting Welding Personnel

It’s a great time to be a welding distributor, with new opportunities to help train a future workforce and customer base. Many GAWDA member companies are involved with local school training programs, whether by providing product or teaching staff. Read “Back To School” in Welding & Gases Today Online.

But, as Ferrante points out, there are currently shortages of qualified welders and welding education resources. To revive a national focus on welding, the American Welding Society and the Weld-Ed National Center for Welding Education and Training are working together. Located at Lorain County Community College in Elyria, Ohio, the Weld-Ed Center focuses on training technicians for high-technology fields that are essential to the nation’s economy. The Center educated 4,120 welding technicians in the 2009-10 academic year, and there will be a continuing domestic need for up to 250,000 welders throughout the next decade.

AWS Workforce Development Efforts
For its part, AWS has collaborated with The Lincoln Electric Company to launch a “Careers in Welding” semi-tractor trailer that will visit welding schools and industrial exhibitions throughout North America. The trailer is equipped with welding simulators to give prospective students a realistic “hands-on” welding experience. The exhibit will also provide interactive educational exhibits, scholarship information and more. The trailer will be on the road for 18 to 24 weeks in 2012.

In addition, a roundtable discussion on welding workforce development was conducted by the AWS Foundation this past September in Chicago, Illinois. Attended by educators, union officials, manufacturers and distributors of welding products and welding end-users, the roundtable concluded that welding-related jobs will long be available for those who are willing to earn their credentials and work where they are needed.

AWS is also pleased to be working with the Gases and Welding Distributors Association (GAWDA), which announced at its Annual Meeting in October that it will establish the GAWDA Foundation, focusing on workforce development.

The primary message of all these efforts is that this is a great time to be a welder and that there are well-paying jobs for skilled welding personnel all over the world. As evidence, welding schools in the U.S. are experiencing record enrollments and course completions, with virtually 100 percent placement of graduates in many locations.

Gases and Welding Distributors Association
Ray Shook Ray Shook is the executive director of the American Welding Society, headquartered in Miami, Florida, and on the Web at www.aws.org.