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In Demand Skills:
Top Trades for Wannabe Welders
Welding as a skilled trade has suffered a bit of an image problem over the last couple decades as many potential recruits considered that the industry would be contracting in line with the decline in manufacturing output.
These fears were definitely overplayed and what it now means is that there are about 210,000 fewer skilled welders in the U.S. workplace than there were 25 years ago, which has created a skills shortage.
This means that those who decide to train to be a qualified welder and fabricator will enjoy a high level of demand and many can expect to command an attractive salary in return for newly acquired skills.
The Welding Trades
As you will see if you visit the resource section of a site like Lincoln Electric, considered to be welding experts, there are numerous avenues of expertise that you can pursue in specific welding trades.
Welding is a skill that is still very much in demand and you will find employment opportunities that range from industrial and commercial applications through to maritime trades and cutting-edge robotics.
Fabrication is also a highly skilled trade. The way you learn the trade has changed with the times so you no longer find many candidates learning their skills on the floor of a steel shop. Candidates are more likely to be a highly-qualified graduate with a good knowledge of theory and safety standards, which complements their technical abilities and allows them to tackle some of the most demanding and complex jobs, even at a relatively early stage in their career.
Filling the Gap
The American Welding Society has predicted that within the next five years, after a wave of retirements that are due to take place in this time, there will be a shortage of nearly 300,000 professionals in the welding trades.
This predicted shortage covers a wide range of different positions that obviously includes welders but also engineers, inspectors and teachers who are just as vital for the industry as welders but are noticeably missing amongst the current pipeline of recruits.
Shale boom highlights shortages and immediate opportunities
There is such a high demand for welders to work in the shale boom, which happening right now along the U.S Gulf Coast, that local employers are already voicing concerns that progress could be halted unless the skills shortage is addressed.
Industrial Info Resources Inc has estimated that at least 36,000 newly qualified workers will be required by 2016, just to meet current construction targets. Not all of these jobs are welding, but it has already been identified as one of the key skills where shortages could threaten to derail the boom and seriously jeopardise the target date of 2035 for the US to meet its own energy needs.
Skilled combo-pipe welders on the US Gulf Coast are earning in the region of $35 per hour and it is estimated that double-digit annual wages growth is expected to continue for the foreseeable future.
Some newly qualified welders have taken the self-employment route and purchased their own trucks and welding rigs, which has enabled them to earn as much as $7,000 a week working drilling fields in Texas.
The shale boom is one very good reason why anyone looking to learn a skilled trade should definitely consider welding, since they would be unlikely to be wanting for work as they build a career or a business from the skills they have acquired.
Key Skills Required
A good number of the welders currently in the trade are approaching retirement age and this means that there will be openings in custom welding, construction and other specialist areas such as marine welding.
One the key skills that you will be required to demonstrate as a welder is a good level of problem-solving ability. Skilled welders are meticulous and pay great attention to detail so that they can spot any potential flaws in designs and materials, together with troubleshooting where needed.
Math and science are also important, as welders are required to use their fundamental knowledge of math and science on an ongoing basis as part of their job. Estimating costs and making sometimes complex calculations in relation to fuels and chemicals are all part of the skills you will need.
Physical and mental endurance may not actually be considered skills as such, but you will need to possess these qualities if you are to be a successful welder. Your job will involve facing a number of very different scenarios and working conditions and mistakes can be dangerous and costly, so you need to be mentally and physically able to cope.
Other qualities that good welders need are good interpersonal skills. Welders can spend a lot of their time working alone but they need to be able to communicate and interact with colleagues and a number of other people in order to see a job through as smoothly and efficiently as possible.
Over 80% of graduates at the Hobart Institute of Welding Technology, which is considered to be one of the top national programs for the trade, are able to walk into employment directly after they gain their qualifications.
The average annual salary for a graduate welder is in the region of $36,000 and there are definitely openings to gain a salary well beyond $100,000 as your career progresses, especially if you try to find work in the oil and gas industry and are prepared to travel worldwide.
It is going to cost you about $25,000 to cover the cost of tuition but that can be seen as a reasonable investment if you are able to land a well-paid job using your newly acquired welding skills.
If you like the idea of learning to become a welder, this is a skilled trade where you will be welcomed and career prospects should be good considering the skills shortages predicted in the trade.
About the Author
Jim Granger is a retired metal worker and busy grandfather of five. An avid blogger, he hopes to help those starting out in the workforce by posting what has worked for him. His articles appear mostly on career, trade and industrial websites and blogs.