December's "Welding Wire" e-newsletter featured an item about the book "Closing America's Job Gap" that describes new jobs being shaped by innovations in science and technology and how people need to learn "new skills" to attain these jobs. In this book, University of California San Diego researchers, Mary Walshok, Tapan Munroe, and Henry DeVries, contend that America's job crisis is not simply that there are too few good jobs to go around; but, rather there are not enough good workers for the multitude of jobs that U.S. companies need to fill today or will soon become available.
Walshok, a sociologist who has done research for the U.S. Department of labor and the dean of continuing education at USCD, said, "The future is bright if job seekers can figure out how to align continuing education with America's areas of successful innovation. The array of job opportunities is dazzling for workers who are willing to be retrained."
According to the book, No. 10 among the top innovative sectors to consider is: Repurposing America's skilled and technical workers for 'new economy' applications — welders, pipe fitters, and mechanics. Nearly 100 percent of welding school graduates find jobs. The average welder is nearing retirement, with twice as many welders retiring as being trained.
Welding Wire surveyed its subscribers — members of the welding community — to see if their real-world experiences backed up the research findings.
When asked if they agree that welding is among the top 10 areas of job growth, 79 percent of respondents said, "Yes."
One welding educator said, "People disregard the necessity for true skilled trades to perform the types of engineered welds required by today’s fabrications."
Another said, "I have been training entry-level welders at a community college in Texas for 30 years, and it has been extremely rare that those who wanted to work could not find jobs."
A fellow Texan who works for a top-tier oilfield service company confirmed that welders in Texas have excellent job prospects, at least in Houston, which is "doing fine."
A subscriber who works for a major welding gas supplier said, "Welding jobs in Texas, Oklahoma, California, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio are becoming available. Other parts of the country seem to be dealing with a sluggish economy; therefore, the retiring population may not be as noticeable."
A long-time member of the welding community who thinks welding should be in the top 10 said, "Thirty-five plus years in this industry ... it's been a very good ride! Hard work and ambition were the two key ingredients to make this a reality."
Hard work that includes continuing education. Take it from one who's been in the trade for 57 years: "I have been welding since 1954 and have been training welders since 1975. Most welders have a hard time upgrading their skills, and technology is going to pass them by. We (welders) need quick hands-on courses. I've been taking courses ever since I started welding. This is where industry has to go. Industry has to be part of the upgrading or it won’t work."
Among those who believe welding should not be in the top 10 is one who said, "Here in Michigan, the wages being offered for skilled welding are what I earned 25 years ago. That fact makes advising people to go into welding a little discouraging."
Another from a California company who agrees with the Michigan welder said, "My company of 600 employees has hired only three welders in the last 8 years."
Another said would-be welders would not get by on their welding skills alone: "Welding skills along with training in CAD, Photoshop, and Microsoft Office is the key to continuous employment in most skilled-labor fields today. This is what I have found to work for me and the people I meet."
Perhaps the most important survey findings for would-be welders are those that measure employment history. "Welding Wire" asked if current welders had been employed as welders continuously, and if not, what's the longest period they have gone between jobs?
Fifty-eight percent said they have been employed continuously. For those who have not, nine percent said they were unemployed less than a month; 30 percent have gone from one to six months between jobs; 21 percent from six months to a year; and 40 percent have gone longer than a year without a job.
Remember, even the best, most in-demand jobs aren’t immune to droughts these days, especially in some areas of the country.
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