Look us in the eyes and give us your honest opinion: Do you think welding is a dying career? What’s weird is that no matter what you say, you’d be right (at least, in part). According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, welding jobs are actually predicted to increase within the next 10 years. Despite this, it’s an undeniable fact that finding a good welding job out there can be difficult. So what in the world is going on?
A lot of fuss has been made of America’s “skill gap” lately. The idea is that all of America’s young adults are trying to become lawyers, stock brokers and famous DJs. Meanwhile, all of our “skilled labor” jobs such as electricians, plumbers and welders, aren’t being filled. The AWS estimates that by 2020, the United States will have over 290,000 unfilled welding positions. And yet, if you talk to many entry-level welders, they’ll tell you there’s still plenty of competition for positions in the current job market. At the same time, many companies have bemoaned their inability to find enough qualified welders. It seems that all the data contradicts itself.
Making Sense of It All
Statistics alone don’t tell the real story. To get to the root of the problem, researchers have begun more in-depth studies into the welding job market. What they’ve found is that while there seems to be a slight decrease in welders, there’s still plenty of lesser-experienced, entry-level welders available to hire. But when it comes to experienced, highly-trained welders, the pool is ever growing smaller.
It should be noted, when we say “experienced,” we’re not saying those that went to college for welding and those who didn’t. As many new studies have pointed out, even students graduating college with welding degrees tend to lack the real-world experience an employer is looking for.
A Vicious Cycle
Both sides are frustrated, employers and welders. When you look where to point the blame, it becomes clear that our system is simply struggling. Researchers have pointed out that industries are no longer supporting and training their new hires as they once did. Instead, they simply expect skilled welders to be readily available. Part of the fear is that because the skilled welding pool is so small, there’s no guarantee a welder will stay working with your business after you’ve invested the time, attention and training they need. This causes companies not to invest in their entry-level welders, which in turn means the skilled welding pool doesn’t grow. In fact, as more skilled welders retire and new welders don’t get the experience they need, the demand for skilled welders increases even more.
There Is Hope
Thankfully, industries, professionals and welders aren’t watching idly while Rome burns. For instance, the welding education system is placing more and more importance on giving their students real world experience actually welding rather than simply reading about it in textbooks. Many corporations have also begun pushing away their fears and started investing in entry-level workers, helping them get training, certification and pairing them with skilled welders to learn from. With the rise of the internet, welders are also getting trained by more flexible means such as Arc Academy, a Chicago-based welding school that’s begun publishing training videos online.
So what do you think? Are these changes making a difference? Let us know in the comment section below and make sure to check out our post looking at how the growing number of women welders might be a solution.