Nearly every essential of modern life, from power plants and bridges to computers and cars, is made from welded parts or produced using welded machinery. The variety of welding technologies used to produce such a wide array of structures, capital goods, and commercial products makes welding an excellent career choice for people with many different interests and skills.
Thousands of welders, metallurgists, pipefitters, material engineers, welding inspectors, robotic technicians, and a host of other welding professionals employ a variety of welding technologies across a broad spectrum of industries from construction and manufacturing to aerospace and consumer electronics.
As you might imagine this makes for a large and growing workforce. The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (USBLS) estimates that welding is the primary function of over 350,000 workers in the US. When you include other welding professionals, such as inspectors, supervisors, and engineers, the size of the welding community swells to over 2 million workers. That’s over 10 percent of the manufacturing workforce and counting.
Projected Growth; Projected Shortage
Given recent positive economic trends and the widespread use of welding in so many different industries, it’s not surprising that welding and welding related jobs are growing. According to the USBLS, the number of manufacturing jobs added to the U.S. workforce each month grew from an average of 7,000 in 2013 to an average of 16,000 in 2014. This marks the first time in nearly 50 years that the U.S. manufacturing sector has added jobs for four straight years. The high demand for welders and welding professionals is compounded by the large number of industry veterans that are nearing retirement. In fact, the American Welding Society estimates that by 2020, well over 200,000 welders will be required to fill the positions vacated by the present generation of workers.
Despite the positive outlook for those seeking a career in welding, the USBLS reports that 330,000 manufacturing jobs remained unfilled in January of 2015. This unmet demand is in part due to retirements, economic expansion, and a negative image of the welding industry among younger generations. However, the more systemic underlying cause is that many job seekers simply don’t possess the skills that employers need.
In a 2015 skills gap study published by The Manufacturing Institute and Deloitte, manufacturing executives said the most serious deficiencies were a lack of technical and computer skills, problem solving skills, basic technical training, and math skills. This list is indicative of the future of welding and manufacturing. The future belongs to those who have the knowledge and skills to develop and implement the highly innovative and automated production lines that manufacturers will need to remain competitive in the 21st century.
Planet Money’s Adam Davidson may have summarized it best in a recent NPR interview about the future of American manufacturing. He said, “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.”
This actually bodes well for energetic and inquisitive people who want a challenging, well-paying career with plenty of opportunity for growth in a variety of fields, industries, and geographical locations. From welding, fitting, and cutting to materials engineering, robotics, and systems integration, click on one of the careers below to find your career in welding.