The demand for welders is putting a spark in the U.S. job market and in five years, 25 percent of skilled welders will be retiring. The welding trade once had a stigma of being a dirty blue-collar job and today a welder can earn a little more than a Fortune 500 company mid-level executive. Students who receive a few months of training from welding school and get certified can earn as much as a college graduate with a four-year bachelor’s degree. According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 1988 there were 500,000 welders in the U.S. and by 2012 that number has dwindled to 360,000 and the average age of welders is 55. The American Welding Society projects that by 2020 there will be a deficit of 290,000 skilled welders, which includes instructors, inspectors and engineers. American manufacturing will be at a disadvantage, however this could be an advantage for a high school student who does not want to go to a four-year university and earn good money, can decide to become a welder in a short time.
One of the top welding schools in the U.S. is the Hobart Institute of Welding Technology, which has been established since 1930. The requirements for entrance in the welding program at Hobart is a high school diploma or G.E.D. and $25,000 to cover tuition, living expenses and books. The training program last nine months, completing more than a 1,000 hours under a helmet learning the art of metal fusion. Each year the school graduates 300 students, with over 80 percent having job placement, earning an average wage of $17 dollars an hour. Some students can earn more if they opted to learn trigonometry in the advanced pipe-layout class. It is not unusual for a welder to earn six figures welding pipelines or running pipes through a refinery for an oil and gas company.
The manufacturing sector has been growing more rapidly than the rest of U.S. economy, manufacturing has added more jobs over the last four years. With the oil and gas boom and the rise of major infrastructure and construction projects, the U.S. job market will have a high demand for skilled welders. The assembly line jobs that used to employ many welders have been eradicated by foreign manufacturing and automation. Today, it is more about quality than quantity and welders construct made-to-order pieces of fabricated metal and alloys for industries ranging from automobile to aerospace. An insider of the National Association of Manufacturers has stated a generation has been lost and for over 20 years young people have not been encouraged to take up the welding trade.
The bottom line of profit is suffering in many manufacturing companies across the nation. The BMR group, an Indiana-based firm that fixes industrial equipment for manufacturers has to turn away business because of lack of manpower. Stillwater Technologies, a company that makes fabricated metal pieces for satellite dishes, prolongs production of it orders due to the scarcity of skilled welders, which costs the company $2 million a year. GE Oil & Gas, a subsidiary of General Electric, hired 55 skilled welders in 2013 and that is expected to double this year. To satisfy the job market demand of skilled welders, U.S. industrial companies are working with local high schools by donating equipment and creating educational programs to gear young people into manufacturing jobs that require working with their hands.
By Isriya Kendrick