This is the story of Spence Brennan, an assistant manager at a Chinese restaurant who was sure he could do better. What he found out was, he could. The 22-year-old found that a career in welding was not only more exciting, the pay and opportunities for advancement were much brighter.
“Job demand is a lot higher in welding than anything else,” says Brennan, who left college after just two semesters and now is anticipating his training as a welder to almost double his income. “I could do at least $100,000 a year,” believes Brennan.
Companies, big companies like Caterpillar Inc, are aggressively looking for welders just like Brennan. A combination of baby-boomer retirees and manufacturing vacancies have led to a glut in the trades and welding is leading the way.
The Society of Manufacturing Engineers estimates that vacancies in the trades may balloon to as many as 3 million in the year 2015. Without qualified tradesmen to fill these positions, the US manufacturing rebound may sputter, perhaps run out of gas altogether.
From Caterpillar’s perspective
Caterpillar Inc. is the world’s largest manufacturer of construction and mining equipment. According to Kimberly Hauer, the company’s chief human resources officer, “Any opening we have slows down our ability to manufacture at the pace we’d like to.” Filling a vacancy for a skilled welder can take as long as 12 weeks.
The answer seems easy: just train more skilled welders. The reality is that it isn’t that easy. Right now, schools that train skilled welders just can’t get them out fast enough. In California for example, enrollment in community and vocational colleges is actually down after severe budget cuts shrank class enrollment by as much as 25 percent. Community college funding is down 12 percent since the year 2008.
A shift to welding
Getting back to the story of Spence Brennan, the Dallas student is now seeking a 2-year associates degree ion welding at Mountain View College, this after dropping out of a 4-year degree program at Stephen F. Austin university. “I was always pushed toward a four-year school,” says Brennan. “It wasn’t the right path for me. I like working with my hands.”
It looks like Brennan made the right choice. At the close of each school year as many as 20 companies may visit the Mountain View College campus in search of the right welders. According to Dewayne Roy, chief of the Mountain View welding program, all graduates find jobs.
While the average salary for a welder right now is nearing $50,000 per year, it can go much higher. A welder with his own equipment can demand as much as $70 per hour. That’s $140,000 per year on a full-time schedule, but does not include overtime, which is almost a given.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are more than 3 million vacant, private-sector jobs. Of those, factory job vacancies, including welding, total more than a quarter million.
But Deloitte LLP, who assessed the situation for the National Association of Manufacturers, says those numbers are too low. Deloitte believes that there are as many as 600,000 vacancies in manufacturing in the private sector alone.
The Society of Manufacturing Engineers puts is estimates at 3 million manufacturing vacancies in the next three years.
For welders, this means jobs are plentiful and the pay is good. But these jobs require welders with the proper training and experience, something that must be obtained over time. For welders, the jobs future looks bright.