Magazine article Techniques

Building a Better Workforce for Today and Tomorrow

Magazine article Techniques

Building a Better Workforce for Today and Tomorrow

Article excerpt

WE USED TO BE ABLE TO TRAIN WELDERS IN A RELATIVELY SHORT time period when all that was needed was a good demonstration and plenty of booth time. We could pride ourselves on the fact that we could train a welder in weeks as compared to today's training programs that take months.

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As welding has matured into a more sophisticated industry and the demand for automation on the shop floor has grown, so too has the need for more specialized welders who understand beyond just how to hold a torch and weld. Today's welding operators encounter on the job each day advanced equipment and more stringent requirements for quality control and code compliance.

The industry faces a hiring conundrum, however. Recent figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics project that the number of welding jobs will increase by 6 percent by 2022, and the American Welding Society predicts an even larger increase of 10 percent. However, Manpower Groups' annual Talent Shortage Survey, released in May 2015 revealed that 32 percent of U.S. employers face issues in filling open positions, with skilled vacancies remaining in the number one position as "hardest to fill."

To fill the growing number of available jobs in a market where the workforce has shrunk considerably over the past 30 years, you need to eliminate the disconnect that exists between employers, education and prospective employees, and help all parties understand there is a distinct difference between a trained welder and an educated one.

Today's welders must work with higher levels of specialization, not only in equipment, but also in applications. Exotic materials, including aluminum and advanced high-strength steels, are becoming more widely used. Yet, many welders in the shop don't know how to address all this specialization. They might be trained and be excellent welders, but they aren't specialized and knowledgeable.

The agriculture industry faced a similar challenge many years ago. People used to learn to farm from relatives, with skills passed down from generation to generation through hands-on instruction. These farmers were trained. By the 1960s, the industry had shifted to one that required not just trained workers, but also educated ones who could address the science behind agriculture. In the 1990s, agricultural education further evolved to address new specializations and has since grown dramatically. It has become a specialized field of study and employment, with areas of interest ranging from animal husbandry to agronomy to forestry to plant genetics to advanced GPS controls, to name a few.

This is where the welding industry is headed--an evolutionary path that demands different, more knowledgeable welders, whether they work in a fab shop, a manufacturing plant or out in the field. Each of these areas needs welding specialists who have different skill sets.

When we read that we will need 378,000 welders by 2022, what does that really mean? Are these welders who solely pull triggers and burn rod? Or does this number also include engineers, technologists, robotic-welding operators, mechanized orbital-system operators, laser-welding cell technicians, quality-control engineers and other more specialized roles required in welding operations today and into the future? …

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