Location, location, location?

February 19, 2014
By: Vicki Bell

Whether you're a welder looking for a job, or a job looking for a welder, location matters.

“Location, location, location” long has been a catchphrase for describing just how important it is for a business to set up shop in the right place, or a homebuyer to make a good investment. It also describes an important criteria for finding a welding job. Some parts of the country are begging for welders, and in others, welders can’t find jobs, especially decent-paying jobs.

The latest issue of the "Welding Wire" e-newsletter discussed just how important location is, both for welders and those looking to employ them. It referenced a recent article posted on lacrossetribune.com about two Wisconsin companies struggling to find welders.

Speaking for one of these companies, W.M. Sprinkman Corp., Operations Manager Larry Willer said, “We’re looking to expand our night shift and we would probably hire in the neighborhood of anywhere from 10 to 15 welders if we could find qualified people.”

Willer said that a few of Sprinkman’s welders live outside of the county it’s located in, but attracting welders from distant areas runs up hard against a fact of life all manufacturers face: “People generally do not relocate for a shop job, so it limits us to people within a reasonable driving distance of our shop.”

Welding Wire then asked its readers how close they live to their jobs and what’s the farthest they have ever traveled for a welding job. Some respondents went into more detail about their jobs.

A certified welding supervisor said, “I currently drive 38 miles to work and 43 miles home from work. I take a different route home to hit the interstate quicker and avoid school bus traffic on the city streets on the way home.

“I am a welding supervisor at a company in Indianapolis, Ind., and I live in a small town in rural Indiana. I used to live 12 miles farther north than I do now.

“I started with this corporation in 1990 as a production welder and have moved up to welding supervisor. Currently, at this facility, we have 10 welders on day shift and 9 welders on second shift. We have had as many as 14 per shift. We have a good local welding school that teaches high school kids to weld, and I have fiver welders who are graduates of that school. Some have been here between 5 and 10 years. We also have welders who have been with the company 30 to 40 years. Our sister company around the block has about the same situation.

“When we do start looking to hire welders, we have the whole spectrum come in, ones that try to fake it, some that are very good but are asking too much to start, and others that are like we all were at one time—good, but just need someone to give them a chance.

“I have been here 24 years in October. We have competitive pay, great benefits, and good hours. To me, it has been worth all those miles over the years to work someplace with this kind of stability.”

Another reader said, “I travel 60 miles round trip, but this isn’t too bad, as I am a Local 420 union steamfitter. Many members travel much further for work. There is always a demand for good welders. The problem seems to be the wage you are willing to work for.”

A welder from Texas said, “I live within 45 minutes of my work now. In the 1980s, I was driving 214 miles round trip for a construction job on a high-rise in downtown Dallas. I drove this for 3 years, until the job ran out. Then I found this TIG-welding job I’ve had for 30 years.”

The message seems to be that welders don’t really mind traveling a few miles for good jobs. The issue may in fact be the one mentioned by the reader who said, “The problem seems to be the wage you are willing to work for.” After all, it doesn’t make economic sense to drive a long distance for a job that barely covers gas. Rest assured that some welding jobs out there fall in this category. The moral of the story is, employers can attract welders from a wider circle if they offer enough compensation to make the trip worthwhile.

So, it’s not just location, location, location, it’s also compensation, compensation, compensation.

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Vicki Bell

Vicki Bell

FMA Communications Inc.
2135 Point Blvd
Elgin, IL 60123
Phone: 815-227-8209