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  • too few welders?

    hey y'all,
    i also visit the a.w.s. website and there is a hot topic about "where have the welders gone". there are many factors as to why there is a shortage of experienced welders. and it is important to know why the problem is, in order to fix the problem but, i would like to hear from you guys on this and ideas on how to fix this verry serious problem.

    according to the hobart institute, 62% of the students surveyed said they would feel unsuccessful if they were employed in manufacturing. the students also consider manufacturing "dirty, boring, and smelly".
    the u.s. dept of labor estimates that by the year 2028 there will be 200,000,000 jobs in america and only 180,000,000 skilled workers.
    american welding society says that the average age of skilled welders is in their mid 50's, meaning that in the next 10 to 15 years over half will retire.

    what do you all think and how can we fix this?

  • #2

    Here's my $.02 on the overall subject:

    I come from the so called generation X (which I detest that label) and can first hand tell you that a lot of folks my age were never brought up with much of a work ethic taught to them. While I wasn't raised on a farm, my dad was and he owns his own carpentry business. Growing up I didn't get sent off to some day care, instead I was on construction sites by 5. Guess didn't warp my psychological development in any way, and by jr high, I could pretty much tell you how a building was constructed.

    One of my frustrations about our current educational system is the fact that you have one of two options. You can either take the college prep route, or you can "settle" for the vocational one. From the beginning we are pounding it into our kids that if you don't get a college degree, work in an office, and take two hour "client" lunches, then you are less than you could be. Before I go too far, let me say I have nothing against higher education....I have one degree and am working on another. But.....I drove a truck to support myself during my college years and to be honest, had a more valuable education about life working a clutch and floatn' gears.

    To really boil it down, here's my take...America isn't hungry anymore. There's no motivation to get out and make something of yourself. Everybody wants to get a $60K job right out of school with 4wks of vacation, retirement program and a company car. We've gotten addicted to outsourcing every last aspect of life that we can just to make an extra buck or to not get dirty. Think of it this way, two generations ago people would salvage shipping crates in order to get lumber to build a house and be ecstatic about the fact that they even had a house. Now, customers throw a temper tantrum if there is the slightest scratch on their $5K granite counter tops. Where does it end??

    My business partner and I own a general contracting company and fight this battle every day. Over all, the true one man crew of craftsmen is a dieing breed. Everybody wants it pre-packaged and built in China.

    I guess it comes to down to the fact that it (along with several other things, but I digress) is more of a social thing that has to be addressed in the early years of a generation.

    On the flip side, there are a lot of people out there that justify the stereotype of the uneducated, red-neck, can't-get-a-better-job, construction worker that spends more on alcohol than rent. We need to start by getting that image out of the public's eye and show why a truly skilled work force is the back bone of a society. Without it, it's like building a beautiful home on sand without a good footing piered down to rock. It'll be pretty, but only for a brief time until it crumbles.

    I've posted this link before, but I'll put it in here because I think it is a fitting commentary.

    Well, there's my editorial. SSS
    Bobcat 250, MM 210, Syncrowave 180, Spectrum 375
    Cat 242B Skid Steer, Challenger (Cat/Agco) MT275
    1 Thessalonians 4:11-12


    • #3
      Originally posted by tsalagi View Post
      according to the hobart institute, 62% of the students surveyed said they would feel unsuccessful if they were employed in manufacturing. the students also consider manufacturing "dirty, boring, and smelly".
      You nailed the major contributor to the problem - attitude - and there's no way I'm going to try to improve on SkidSteerSteve's excellent "editorial".

      How can the problem be fixed? A simple solution with a horribly difficult implementation - change a prevailing, unspoken attitude that "blue collar" is somehow inferior to "white collar"; that there's something almost disrespectful about callused and work-hardened hands but health club memberships and trips to the gym to work off "swivel chair spread" are socially acceptable; that the trades and crafts are somehow less valuable than the "professions".

      I have no suggestions on how that public attitude change can be accomplished. However, I have concluded, rightly or wrongly, that the biggest influence on public opinion and attitude in today's environment are the propaganda machines of the large news media.
      Tom Veatch
      Wichita, KS


      • #4
        Here is something else contributing to the problem ....

        Vocational/Technical classes are all but non-existent in today's High School curriculums.

        By the time I was in the 11th Grade I could set type by hand from a California Job Case ( Print Shop ), Turn a Baseball bat on a lathe ( Woodshop ), Build, troubleshoot and repiar various electronic circuitry ( Electronics Shop ).

        These course were a year long, all 4 quarters in the selected shop class.

        The only shop class I did not take was Automotive. I took this one after 12th grade during the summer at a Vo-Tech High School.

        Todays high school student is lucky to get 1/2 of year in a so called Shop Class. if and when the do build something, they end up assembling a PURCHASED KIT.

        Whenever you see or hear the ads about " Are your kids getting enough ART and MUSIC " in school, remember they are missing SHOP CLASS as well.

        I graduated from High School in 1974. In the mid-80's I went back to my High School with a 26 foot long box truck full of Electronics gear donated by a defense contractor I worked with to be used in that schools Electronics class. It was refused by the high school as electronics was not taught in the way it was when I was there.

        Children are no longer being exposed to the types of classes that generate an interest in the trades like they used to. I fell fortunate now that I was able to take the shop classes I did, the knowledge I gained there led me to where I am today.

        Here is a some tests I'd like to give to high school seniors graduating today.

        1) Hand them a California Job Case and ask them to identify it, or substitute a section of linotype and see if they know what it is.

        2) Hand them a non-working car stereo ( blown fuse ) and ask them to diagnose it.

        3) Hand them a Skew Chisel , Parting Chisel, and Bowl Gouge Chisel and aske them to identify each one.

        4) Take them into a garage and ask them to show you the Front End Alignment machine.

        Do kids need to know all of this? I don't know, but would it hurt if they did know?

        Public Shools SUCK today for what is NOT taught to children. All they frigging care about is teaching the kids to pass some assesment test so the school can qualify for more Federal money.


        <whew - I need a smoke and a beer> I don't smoke or drink!


        • #5
          Yup, I agree with all of the above.

          My two cents would be add to the fact that the only discipline that exists seems to be in the military. There sure isn't any existing anywhere else. I would have been spitting chicklets had I talked to my parents the way I hear kids doing it today. I suppose it would have saved me several trips to the dentist lately, but that is not the point. That and the horrible appearance issues that seem to have evolved these days, and in reality, most kids coming out of high school are not really employable in this sector of business. They have more holes in their head than is normal and all the chains and rings that go with them.....Let them work with spinning machinery????? I don't think so. Tell them there is a dress code and it must be followed and they bolt. No one wants to follow any rules anymore. Welding is full of rules to be followed. No way around that. It also is hard and hot work. No one wants to work hard anymore.

          I agree that the schools need a good swift do the teachers. But give the parents a kick as well. Some of this stuff that is lacking is not taught at is from home and family. But when kids are considered a nusciance and shuttled off here and there, how are they supposed to be taught anything? It won't come from TV either. Just the opposite actually.

          I say, let the trend continue. Let it get so bad, they are begging us to do their work. When we start making six figure salaries because there isn't anyone to work...then maybe getting dirty and having satisfaction in a job well done will become fashionable once again. ......then I woke up.

          '06 Trailblazer 302
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          Esab Heliarc 252 AC/DC


          • #6
            I do see all points of view. Especially with "kids these days" seeing how I'm in school with them. Yes most have a bad attitude and would rather do drugs and party, but not all. And I wish just as bad as everyone that this could be changed.

            My school does offer shop classes, and I must say it is a great class. Even though we dont have a big shop, as many classes, or evev all the fancy tools, it gives kids like me and my friends a chance to learn, and get ready for a job, apprenticeship, or whatever is in the near future.

            In defense for my school district (it may be other places too), they just approved a plan to get help with getting future skilled workers more knowledge. My understanding of this would consist of students going to a different school, where there are the teachers for whatever trade or skill, and the students staying there for hours on end every day learning about what they need to know.


            • #7
              I dont think sterio types are true about any subject. Welding is yes a dirty job and yes it may smell but if we didnt have skilled workers in this trade or any other for that matter where would we be? I dotn think or economy would be any where. I think we really need to stress it out and we need to get everybody in the education take part in it and atleast try a hands on course of any sort. We already have that but I mean we should make it a compusery (sp). I dont think we stress it enough to my age group 14-22 (if im not mistaken) how importent our trades people are. I really do think having docters is really worth something but where are they going to do there practice without people building that facility.
              Thanks for reading I hope my post helped



              • #8
                When I was in high school everyclass I took was designed for kids to learn field either automotive engineering etc. I chose engineering. In our tech class we had to build a bridge out of toothpicks mine held 106lb we also had to make those wooden CO2 cars but they had to have a wing on the back that gave 10% lift had to weigh a certain amount could only be so wide and high etc... it was not easy.

                I didn't stay at that school for long because I moved but that was the best year I never got a chance to enjoy school after that no program in any of the 3 schools I went to after that had good classes. one had only a automotive class the other had shop classes but were full so I got stuck in cooking lol

                I think to fix this they need to start people off in trades while in highschool maybe even give them credit towords their certs/tickets or just get a head start ont he aprentership


                • #9
                  Interesting question.

                  First, let me say I agree with everything that has been written thus far. To that I would like to add the following:

                  I began writing a book about two years ago. After working on it for about a year, I decided to abandon the project because it had grown so large the subject matter could not be adequately covered in a shelf full of books. The working sub-title was "The systematic assault on and destruction of the american middle class". In the modern global econosphere our middle class is disappearing for a thousand different reasons. What makes this a shame beyond comprehension is the middle class has been the backbone of America since before we were a sovereign nation. The middle class has always been where we grew (not just educated or trained, but GREW) our blacksmiths, carpenters, telegraph operators, mechanics, electricians, welders, steel mill workers, auto workers, machinists, teachers, farmers, forklift operators, soldiers, marines, sailors and airmen. Believe it, or not, this change is only new here in the gold ole USA. We are at least 20 years behind the rest of the world. IMHO, we have only lasted as long as we have because of the massive economic strength we held and force of skilled labor in the global marketplace. The events of the the greatest impact (federalization of the public school system, favored trade status for China, the pervasive growth of computers in the design and manufacture of goods, etc.) were each just a single nail in the lid of a VERY LARGE coffin.

                  The single overriding fact of the matter is there is NO single thread in the fabric of our society that has not been degraded. None, zip, zero, nada. If I were king for a day, there would be a new department created. The Unites States Department of Misnomers. I would specifically point out things like the Department of Education, where schools get there funding not by what they taught, but by HOW MANY they taught; the Department of Justice, because the practitioners of law don't give a **** about justice, the United States Congress (congress is supposed to mean coming together with a common goal, enough said), ad nauseum. The fabric of our industry and our entire society is unravelling before our very eyes.

                  Take a look at some of the nice welder carts, welding tables, gizmos and gadgets that are shown here on this site. The average person is incapable of comprehending the conceptual creativity, planning and attention to detail you guys have put into the fabulous work we see here every day. Nobody is surprised the average person doesn't get it. Here's the rub: the average employer doesn't get it either. Try telling your boss or your customer how many man hours and dollars of materials are TRULY going into the project they want done. Doing the job right, with the right materials, the right planning and the right labor takes a back seat to satisfying the almighty bottom line. That's why I can't order an evaporator coil from any manufacturer anywhere that will stand up to the environments where I install them. It is why vessels we install today can't possibly withstand pressure like the ones I put in twenty years ago.

                  All of this combined with what I call the microwave mindset is pulling us down. The microwave mindset explains why there always seems to be a second or two left on the microwave timer. People today are in such a hurry for their gratification they cannot wait that last second or two for their burrito. How many of the e-mails you get are actually written. Not computer generated garbage or forwards, but messages someone actually sat down and wrote out? Microwave mindset.

                  The worst news of all is this: IMHO, this trend is irreversible. Sorry to be the bearer of ill tidings.

                  Have a nice day. (sorry for the extensive droning)

                  Ammonia refrigeration tech
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                  "A professional knows what to do. A craftsman knows why."


                  • #10
                    I don't believe we are dealing with stereotypes here either. yes, it is easy to call it that because in this day it is not permissible to call anything by its correct name. I believe it is a trend that is slowly to quickly becoming the norm sadly. My wife made a great point about why the schools are so bad today....and the reason is the parents. If they weren't so sue happy about every little thing, then the school districts might just be able to mold young minds correctly, not the way they do now. So what if the kids are made to wear what if they are given tons of what if they are made to take physical education and actually have to pass tests...and if they get out of line, a small whack across the butt won't kill them, but it might make them think twice about doing that again. I have noticed time and again, that the well adjusted ones were disciplined in some fashion. If the schools were run today, the way they were run 25-30 years ago, the school districts would be shut down and the higher ups would all be in prison. If it was so bad back then, why did most of us turn out just fine?? Loose the politically correct crap and maybe something will actually get done.

                    Riiiiight.......Like that will actually happen.

                    I know there are exceptions to every rule. I also know there are some young'uns out there that do have some good work ethics and some gumption about them. Sadly, they are in an ever shrinking minority. My kids will not have the popular work ethic.They will be taught the value of a good days work. They will be polite and respectful to their elders.....whether those elders deserve it or not. They will wear their pants in the full upright and belted position. They will not be glued to the TV or video games. Outside will be a playground, and will not be avoided at all costs.( Fresh air is not fatal!) Will they be freaks of nature? Nope...but they will be different. Since when is that a bad thing?

                    Beam me up Scotty.....very little intelligent life left down here.

                    '06 Trailblazer 302
                    '06 12RC feeder
                    Super S-32P feeder

                    HH210 & DP3035 spool gun
                    Esab Multimaster 260
                    Esab Heliarc 252 AC/DC


                    • #11
                      Ya know there's not just a shortage off skilled trades such as welders.

                      I know an Elecrtical Engineering discipline that suffers shortages.

                      Engineers with a background in RF Design - the colleges and universities have screwed up as well - produced tons of Computer Engineers.

                      When I worked at Westinghouse/Grumman Northrup all the RF designers were older men, all the young engineers coming in were straight Computer or Electrical Engineers. Some of the brighter EE's were fixed up with an older RF guy and sorta got on-the-job-training.

                      That's a different situation, though related by school decisions.

                      Someone mentioned they had " shop class ", my kids also have " shop class ", but the shop classrooms are pathetic compared to when I was in high school. Woodshop class was a fully functional cabient shop. Metal working class was a fully functional machine shop. Print Shop was a fully functional, even took on outside work to earn money for us kids to have parties.

                      I do not live in that school district anymore, thank god. Now where I live we have a state-of-the-art Vocational Tech High School ... it's mission is to turn out Carpenters, Auto Mechanics, Machinists, Welders, Plumbers, Cooks, Veterinary Techs, Nurses Aides and the like. If the student do not keep up thier 3 R grades,( Reading, wRiting, aRithmetic ), grades they can be flunked out of this school and put into a standard High School.

                      Kids in this county know all to well what a Diploma from this school means -- Instant Employment the day after graduattion -- in fact most Seniors go to school part time and work on the job in thier field the rest of the time.

                      Here is a link to the Techncal Programs this High School offers.

                      It's one heck of a school - may not be THE BEST there is out there, but it's the best this old man has seen.


                      • #12
                        I agree with all of the above, Not to offend anyone but I think alot of trouble is parents. most kids are stuck in a daycare or school most of the day
                        see their parents on the ride home if their lucky, then spend the night in front of tv or video game. The schools are no help either now days from the time kids start school they want to prepare them for college. There is nothing wrong with college. But kids need to have some idea what they want to do. If every one went to college everyone would be wanting a desk not a welder,
                        I have been out of school for several years some of my friends went to college and most of them dont even have jobs, some still live with parents.
                        Maybe some of us are just born with the will and determination or a gift.
                        When I was a kid I was lucky I guess my grand dad had a repair shop and my dad could fix or build anything, and I knew early in life I wanted to be just like that,We had an old stick welder that I taught myself to weld on when I was about 12 or 13 and thats what I have been doing since, But I dont know as much as I could have, or as much as some of you guys here, but I have never had any welding school or college but I have picked up alot of pointers along the way which is more valuable to me than any school. No teacher can tell you more than somebody who has welded daily for 40 years.


                        • #13

                          I think most(80%) of the blame is on the employer..
                          everybody on this site knows how hard it is to become a journeymen I will never forget.


                          • #14
                            Well, haven't we started a fire storm here? The truth is, if we are going to have any change for the good of all trades in general, it's going to have to start from our own ranks. As the previous entries have so blatantly pointed out, we no longer have the luxury of talented individuals coming to us. Instead, we are going to have to take a more active approach in recruiting and training if we are to see anything left. Triggerman, you are right on target about the average person not "getting it" when it comes to quality work/materials. My dad once made a comment to me that has been a driving force in my life ever since. It was a simple one line that basically stated "you do a job for the sake of the job first, then you work for the pay". I know that so goes against the mindset of anyone but a true craftsman, but it is the way it should be. I constantly get grief from all different angles because I do so much of my own work. If I had a penny every time I heard "couldn't you just buy it cheaper". In answer to that, no, I can't. I could pay a lot less for something that resembled what I wanted, but not what I would build. Case in point: As it is pretty obvious, I'm a huge fan of Caterpillar (disclaimer-I have no ties with them other than being a very satisfied customer). While they are not a perfect company and have to make decisions in reality about products and marketability, I think they do a heck of a job at what they do. When I went to purchase my first piece of yellow iron, I shopped around all the major makes and models before proceeding. While I did weigh price in the equation, it was not the overwhelming factor. I couldn't tell you how many people have asked me why I spent the extra money instead of going with any one of a dozen other lines. Here's my answer to that. Purchase price is only a small part of the cost of ownership. $1K in better parts could be worth $2K in service down the line. Also, the fact that as a mechanic I took one look at the serviceability of their design and nobody else even came close to it. When you look at a company like that and see what goes into the R&D and realize that they build a machine to be best at what it is, it gives you a real sense of satisfaction. I would personally challenge anyone to put a comparable machine side by side and the differences will be blatantly obvious. If we could only get the big three to build vehicles that way......

                            Now that we have throughly determined we are on a down hill course, let's turn the microscope on ourselves. If we are to take an active course of recruitment, what are some of those avenues? When was the last time we did take a kid in off the street and at least give them the opportunity to learn a way of life? The fact that skilled people are getting less has been proven, but I think we are missing the fact that there are people out there that have the innate skills, they just don't have a way to polish them. Case in point: a young man that goes to our church is a college senior. He grew up in small neighborhood and his parents had office employment. Naturally, he was not openly involved with mechanics. Over the years, he has spent countless hours at my shop and shops of other close friends. It was only a matter of time before he was ankle deep in grease and having a great time. This is just a case of seeing a spark in someone and fostering that into a lifestyle.

                            I would sincerely hope that there are people reading this website and others like it that pick up ideas and apply them. I know from personal experience, it can be very hard to break into a new field. Part of this has to do with those that are already in such field. Keep in mind, I'm just as guilty of this as the next guy. How many times do we brush people off or get just plain rude with them because we don't want to show them something elementary. Keep in mind that none of us were born with a welding helmet, box wrench, table saw.....

                            There's not a one among us that can stop a tidal wave, but we can all make our own little ripple and all those together can begin to have an impact. Don't try to change the world, just your world. Look for products that put design a priority over marketing. Once you start looking for them, they do start to pop out. A good way to find them is to look for the absence of hype and packaging to begin with. The best little restaurant in my area is the most bland place in the world when comparing atmosphere and packaging, but you'll never beat the food, that's for sure. Usually the best guy in the phone book has the smallest ad or none at all, simply because they don't need it. They have all the work they want.

                            The bad part about all of this is the fact that if you are here and reading this, then you are the ones that already understand most of these concepts. I wish I had all the answers, but sadly I don't.

                            Bobcat 250, MM 210, Syncrowave 180, Spectrum 375
                            Cat 242B Skid Steer, Challenger (Cat/Agco) MT275
                            1 Thessalonians 4:11-12


                            • #15
                              Don't fret, Steve. No one has all the answers, nor will anyone ever have them. That is the way of things.

                              I have taught my share of newbies. I still would if any would care to give it a try. No takers in a looooong time. No one wants to start at the bottom anymore and work their way up...they all want to start at the top office with an expense account, company credit card and car. When they can't get it, they stay at home sponging off mom and dad as long as they can. There are exceptions out there. They are just getting hard to find. Matter of fact, I haven't had a new helper in maybe 6 years or more. Sad.....I'm getting older by the day.

                              '06 Trailblazer 302
                              '06 12RC feeder
                              Super S-32P feeder

                              HH210 & DP3035 spool gun
                              Esab Multimaster 260
                              Esab Heliarc 252 AC/DC