Help Wanted Part 6: Maximizing Education

When we began our series, we focused on a growing problem for employers and workers: welding students dropping out of certification and degree programs because they find non-welding prerequisite courses too difficult or disconnected from what they actually care about. Last week we discussed what traits employers are looking for when they hire new employees. Ironically, many of these qualities can be developed in the very classes and programs students are leaving. This week in Help Wanted, we’re going to discuss how seeing a degree or certification program through to completion can help you find work and lay a foundation for a long-term career.

To some the classroom seems like an unnecessary obstacle that must be overcome in order to land a job. However, practical experience shows that school can be used for more than getting an important piece of paper. If you approach an education carefully and tough out the parts you find difficult, it’s actually a place where you can build up a demonstrable reputation for possessing the traits coveted by employers: the kind of traits that land you work.

As we discussed last week in Help Wanted Part 5: Ten Qualities of a Good Employee, the list of traits that employers are looking for is lengthy and hard to convey in an interview or at a job fair. That’s why the classroom is a perfect place to build up an image that will help you land more than just a temporary entry level position. Your actions and activities as early as middle school can show employers that you have developed the following desirable characteristics:

Timeliness and Responsibility:
A strong attendance record shows employers that you respect people’s time and do your best to avoid absences.

Leadership and Sociability:
Extracurricular activities may not show that you know how to weld, but they’ll definitely demonstrate that you’re willing to join groups and work with other people. Plus, the more involved you are in the management of school and extracurricular activities, the more opportunities you will have to display the leadership qualities employers want.

Dependability and Initiative:
Your grades and class selection can do more than determine whether you get your degree or certificate. They are an opportunity to show employers that you work hard and get your work done well and on time. High grades demonstrate that you are organized, hard-working, and capable. Meanwhile, choosing challenging courses in skills that pertain to the industry shows initiative. A strong class selection also demonstrates an understanding of the importance of being well-rounded, which in turn exhibits that you’re looking for a career, not just a job.

Course selection is particularly critical. We’ve spent a lot of time in this series discussing the role of non-welding classes in welding education. They may seem like they’re a hassle or a waste of time, but as the job market grows and employers become increasingly selective, non-welding courses are rapidly becoming just as essential as welding courses when it comes to securing a long term job. These classes exhibit soft-skill training that can distinguish you from the glut of workers who are all familiar with the basics of the trade.

Consider selecting courses that focus on the following:

Print Reading and Mechanical Drafting:
These classes are essential to fully understand the information found on real-world manufacturing and mechanical engineering drawings. Moreover, technical drawing is essential for communicating ideas in industry. These classes are especially important if you want to advance in your career, as you’ll be able to read more complicated prints and interpret sizes and special directions more easily.

English:
Communication is critical on a job site, be it written or verbal. Although an English class may seem like a bore, or seem inconsequential for a welder, it helps teach proper grammar and spelling. English classes will improve your reading skills and develop your ability to express yourself clearly and concisely. These are not only essential qualities valued by employers. They enhance the quality of every person’s life.

Electricity and Electronics:
Given the nature of the arc welding process, understanding how electricity works is an obvious boon for anyone seeking to become an effective welder. An understanding of electricity and electronics is even more important if you’re planning on going into machine repair.

Metal Shop:
Metal shop is one of the core classes all welders should take, as it introduces you to all the basic mechanics and components of the joining process. Metal shop offers hands on experience with welding techniques, safety, reading prints and following directions. This class should be taken as early as possible: either in middle school or high school.

Physics:
You should at least be familiar with physics principles like friction, the function of threads, gears, levers, stresses, heat, energy and energy conservation. You should also understand various mechanical, hydraulic and pneumatic mechanisms. The successful completion of a physics class that teaches these principles demonstrates that you understand how welded components will function and interact. This shows potential employers that you have the background necessary to think outside the box and make intelligent decisions independently when unexpected problems arise.

Math:
As we mentioned in our previous entry, welder’s use math in a number of ways; from calculating deposition rates and selecting electrode diameters, to reading measurements and calculating material needs. The more math a welder knows, the further his or her career can advance. High level math is essential for fitter-welders, inspectors, supervisors, metallurgists and welding engineers. High level math will also help you if you plan to continue your education past high school. We recommend pursuing courses in Algebra, Geometry, Trigonometry and Calculus; the higher the better.

Science:
In addition to physics, other classes like metallurgy provide a better understanding of why welding works, instead of just how. Science classes demonstrate to employers that you have the fundamental knowledge necessary to solve difficult or complicated problems. A potential employer will likely consider such a knowledgeable person as especially capable of learning new processes and growing with the company long term.

Welding Courses:
Perhaps the most obvious course recommendation on this list, welding courses will give you the practice and knowledge necessary to find work in the industry. Welding courses are essential whether you’re looking for work as a welder, a cost estimator, an inspector or a welding engineer.

Conclusion:
Remember, no matter what kind of education you pursue, or how you choose to pursue it, school is more than just an obstacle on your path to a job. Focus on the ways that your education can apply to your goals as a welder, and be prepared to use your educational background as a tool to getting yourself into the career you want.

Next week we’ll be speaking to Randy Emery, welding educator at College of the Sequoias and regular American Welding Online contributor, to get his thoughts on the skills gap and the state of welding education. He’ll also be sharing his advice for welders, educators and employers.

As always, until next time, we invite you to explore our website: http://awo.aws.org, where you can find online lectures, video blogs, online courses and more to help you start improving your career and career opportunities.

Sources:

Althouse, Andrew D.. Modern welding: complete coverage of the welding field in one easy-to-use volume!. Tinley Park, Ill.: Goodheart-Willcox Co., 2004. Print.

Rice, Marty. “What employers expect from welders.” – The Fabricator.com. N.p., 8 Nov. 2011. Web. 4 June 2014.

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