A skilled welder who can handle a number of different welding methods is quickly becoming a rare commodity. In fact, the demand for skilled laborers in general is outdistancing the supply at such a rate that many industry experts believe a time will come when there are no skilled laborers available at all.
The labor shortage in skilled trades and welding can be attributed to a number of factors:
An aging workforce – Older tradespeople are nearing retirement age much faster than they can be replaced. More than half of all skilled trades workers are said to be 45 or older, and predictions from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicate there simply will not be enough new workers to fill these jobs.
College vs. the trades – For countless high school graduates of the past three decades or so, the implied path to a rewarding and high-paying career was one that went through college. If you wanted a nice paycheck, you needed a four-year degree. And with many high schools eliminating industrial arts courses from the curriculum, another pathway to the trades and welding careers went with them. Meanwhile, a skilled welder only needs six months to complete their initial training, and many can work as apprentices and get paid as they learn and enter careers paying upwards of $100,000/year in some industries.
The trades aren’t “cool” career paths – Perhaps one of the more hidden obstacles preventing welding from becoming more mainstream is a negative image that the trades are undesirable jobs. Despite the fact that there are hundreds of thousands of job openings in the trades, the only jobs worth working are ones working with technology.
Few scholarship opportunities – Even if a student is interested in a career in welding or the trades, how they go about it isn’t entirely clear in many cases. Trade unions and vocational schools do exist to help students along the path, but they are not as prevalent as community colleges or universities. Check out the American Welding Society scholarship opportunities here.
What this has created is a huge gap in the number of available jobs and the number of workers available to fill them. By 2020, the American Welding Society estimates there will be 290,000 welding jobs that remain empty and that number can grow to as high as 400,000 by 2024. As our infrastructure continues to age, skilled welders will be needed to rebuild structures, bridges, and roadways. Welders will also be important to alternative energy industries like wind and solar power and any pipeline system needs skilled welders and laborers to build and maintain them.
What is the Solution?
We at CK Supply know how great of a career in welding is, but the stigma that welding jobs and the trades are something that only the under-skilled or poorly educated do. The jobs are perceived as pay little and are performed in difficult conditions. The reality is that there are many good paying manufacturing jobs in the United States, and opportunities are even more abundant in high-tech industries. Welding skills, in particular, are broadly transferable across different manufacturing industries, and welding can be viewed as a highly saleable high-tech occupation. According to the American Welding Society, a key need is improved public relations at the high school level to encourage entry into the trades/welding.
CK has worked closely with welders and other skilled laborers for our entire existence and we see the need for talented welders to enter the workforce. Welding is a skill that takes intelligence and precision. It’s as much about working with your head as it is about working with your hands. Welders are passionate about their trade and without their skill and dedication, modern life as we know it simply wouldn’t exist.
Thinking about welding? CK’s Technical Center is equipped with a multiple virtual welding machines. Take a virtual welding class, which is a great option for engineers, managers and novice welders.