As part of our celebration for #NationalWeldingMonth, we will explore the the growing demand for welders.
The American Welding Society estimates that there will be a deficit of 400,000 skilled welders by 2024. The average age of skilled workers in this field is now approaching 60 in the United States. This downward trend started almost 30 years ago as high schools shifted focus away from skilled trades and towards computer-focused technology.
However, a focus on a skilled and proven workforce has never been more important. Experienced welders are needed to rebuild and repair structures, bridges and roadways. Skilled welders are also an asset in the energy industry, operating in both renewable energy and within the oil and gas industries.
The more adventurous welders will have no issue plying their trade if they are willing to travel or if they have an interest in diving and are willing to train their bodies and obtain the necessary certifications.
Despite this demand, there is a concern regarding automation within the industry that prevents students from considering the field. The experience of recent graduates, however, is vastly different – with the majority getting job offers before they graduate. For example, a three year welding engineering technology program often earns $85,000 or more to start.
A deeper examination around automation reveals shorter term limitations around the technology however. Cobots, collaborative robots, which have automated certain aspects of manufacturing lines are still reliant on human operators. Someone needs to program the robot and someone still needs to inspect the welds. Most importantly, limitations in automation technology still necessitates the need for human workers in the more creative parts of welding work, most especially problem solving in the field. Who better to do all this than an experienced welder?
The industry has also embraced AR, augmented reality, technology. Augmented reality in welding has been especially popular for training and skills development. The technology simulates actual practice, providing students with instant feedback as they practice their technique, while providing cost-savings in materials. The technology has also proven to be a popular retraining method for experienced welders further developing their skills.
This is especially relevant as welded products and their welding procedure specifications (WPS) increase in complexity. Technology has been a growth field here as well as organizations strove to digitize their documents. Digital welding procedure specifications is making inroads in the industry, streamlining production processes. Recent developments have also seen augmented reality welding helmets as an emerging resource.
These helmets utilize cameras and rapid processing to normalize the intense light emitted when welding. In contrast to traditional dark lens shields, this technology provides welders with greater clarity in being able to see their work while reducing potential eye injuries.