The welding industry is facing a skills shortage on a global basis and the US has now joined the UK to find new ways to combat this real and present danger to the industry.
The American Welding Society has revealed it will face a shortage of 400,000 operators by 2024. There is a combined problem of an ageing population of current welders and a lack of new workers with complete skill sets.
There are dedicated welding schools in the US, including the Hobart Institute of Welding Technology in Ohio, which charges more than £15,000 in tuition fees to cover the nine month course. The UK offers City and Guilds certificates and BTEC courses in fabrication and welding, but they are not attracting enough young welders to the fray.
With more students preferring arts courses and fewer entering manufacturing, this is a real skills shortage that will continue to prove an issue. Guaranteed work has helped, but it is not enough on its own and a recent New York Times article cited low wages among entry-level welders as one of the real reasons why the industry cannot fill the skills gap. Indeed, a recent Telegraph article quoting a report by Constructaquote claimed that half of young jobseekers do not even know what welding is or what it entails.
In 2013 the British government took its own action to address a significant skills shortage in welding services in the Nuclear New Build Programme. More than £4 million was allocated to welding training under the programme that allowed Doosan Babcock to train welders to the highest possible standard.
Martyn Fletcher, Director of Operations Support of Doosan Babcock and ECITB Regional Chairman said: “High integrity pipe welding is a major skills gap in engineering construction, and has been cited as a specific skills risk to nuclear new build delivery. The employer opportunity pilot has allowed us to secure significant investment to address this risk quickly.”
The nuclear industry, oil and gas and a number of other key industries rely on skilled welders to literally keep everything running. So it must address this skills gap now and get the next generation into the game.