Last month, we received an email from one of our readers. We expect that the concerns expressed in this email may apply to a number of people considering welding as a career option, but who are confused by the seemingly contradictory information they sometimes receive about the future of the industry. The message went as follows:
My name is Ryan Benton. I’m reaching out today because I have a question regarding the overall outlook for the welding industry, as it may pertain to perspective new hires.
There is an article written by Cait Murphy in the April 2014 issue of Inc. Magazine. In this article, the AWS is referenced in regards to the overall outlook of welding jobs. The article indicates there is “undoubtedly a skill shortage”, and goes on to say that the AWS predicts there will be a shortage of 291,000 skilled welders by the year 2020. Here is the article: http://www.inc.com/magazine/201404/cait-murphy/skills-gap-in-the-labor-force.html
As of today, the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts there will be a “slower than average” job growth period for welders, between 2012-2022. The site is predicting a meager 6% increase in job growth during this period. http://www.bls.gov/ooh/production/welders-cutters-solderers-and-brazers.htm
Can someone from the AWS speak about the disparity between these two pieces of information? They seem to conflict with each other. The outlook for job growth and the expected demand for skilled welders is of interest to me, partly because I’ve recently considered changing careers altogether. Welding, plumbing, and industrial engineering are all areas that interest me. I’d really like to know more about what those in the industry expect during the next 10 years, in terms of growth and demand.
Any information would be greatly appreciated!
The contradiction that Mr. Benton mentions is due to the way that the Bureau of Labor Statistics categorizes occupations. The Occupational Outlook page for Welders, Cutters, Solderers, and Brazers does indeed predict a slower than average job growth rate over the next decade. However, this BLS job category doesn’t account for all the welders in other occupations. For example, the BLS Occupational Outlook for Structural Iron and Steel Workers, which includes a large number of welders, shows a “much faster than average” job growth rate of 22%. When you include all the welders in other BLS categories, the projected 291,000 new welding jobs begins to look like a conservative figure. Some of these other job categories include Boilermakers, Sheet Metal Workers, Pipefitters, and Fabricators. And that’s a short list. There are many more welders working in other occupations related to the construction, manufacturing, energy, aerospace, and transportation industries.
So, we can assure Mr. Benton that there will indeed be a need for many new welders in the coming years. However, it’s important to point out that many of the industries that employ welders are becoming more technologically sophisticated in their efforts to increase productivity and remain competitive in the global market. Consequently, the future pool of workers will likely be smaller, smarter and more adaptable. In other words, “If you want to succeed for the coming decades, you don’t just need to be trained and then a few years later retrained. You need a continuous improvement in your education. The main skill you need is the skill to learn more skills.”
Even now there are many welding jobs going unfilled because employers can’t find workers with the right skills. People are beginning to realize the career benefits welding offers, but jump into the industry without fully realizing how to make those possibilities a reality. As a consequence, they add to the glut of unskilled workers that are unable to find employment in an increasingly diverse and innovative field. In the same way that becoming a successful doctor or lawyer means seeking additional training in order to be competitive on the job market, success in welding also requires verifiable special training to really maximize your potential.
The American Welding Society is working to help the current and upcoming generation of welding professionals to take advantage of the thousands of current and future jobs available to skilled workers. Visit AWS WeldLink to find out more about the educational opportunities and certifications available to both beginners and established professionals. WeldLink provides detailed information about the education and certification requirements for various welding career tracks, as well as direct links to training centers, apprenticeship programs, and job opportunities. AWS Learning also provides engaging online courses designed to fit the needs of today’s welding students. Brief modules, learner-centered navigation, and 24/7 access allow time-strapped students to learn at their own pace from laptops, phones, and tablets at any time or place.
AWS Learning: For more information about welding education, certification, and new ways to expand your welding career, check out our other blogs, podcasts, virtual conferences, online courses, and digital tools designed to help you grow and succeed.