It is currently projected that the United States will need an additional 238,000 welding-related professionals by 2019. Since 2007, when AWS made welder workforce development a strategic direction and aligned it with the AWS Foundation’s scholarship activity, the Society has continued to develop programs to enhance the image of welding and is focused on recruiting welders to ease this national shortage.
These efforts have included the use of national spokespersons; student recruitment collateral; a careers Web site at www.CareersInWelding.com; a job-search Web site at www.JobsInWelding.com; professional development events for career counselors; workforce development grants for education/industry partnerships; a Careers in Welding mobile exhibit; and more. We have collaborated with Weld-Ed, the National Center for Welding Education & Training, under a grant funded by the National Science Foundation, as well as with the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) and its portable, stackable certification program.
A collaborative effort undertaken late last year was organization of The State of the Welding Industry Workforce Roundtable. This event — cosponsored by AWS, AWS Foundation, and Weld-Ed — included 16 executive panelists and some 70 audience participants. I served as the moderator for the morning panel discussion, which included industry representatives from Caterpillar, Vermeer, Huntington-Ingalls, Bechtel, Westinghouse, RoMan Engineering, AWISCO, ESAB, Lincoln, ITW, and education representatives from UA Local 597, Texas State Technical College, Lorain County Community College, and University of Alberta. The AWS and NAM were also part of the executive panel.
The panelists shared challenges their organizations face in recruiting, training, and retaining welding professionals, as well as organizational impacts from new technologies, advancements in welding, and globalization. Ideas and frameworks for pilot projects that address the stated challenges were formulated in later small group discussions. A report on the roundtable centered around three main priorities: Build Enthusiasm for Welding, Expand Industry/Education Collaboration, and Flexibility in Education and Training.
Building upon this successful event, AWS has identified seven priority projects on which it is focusing its efforts for future welder workforce development initiatives, including the following:
• Branding of the profession and messaging specific to each market segment including young students (K–12), young adults (18–26 and military), incumbent workforce (transitioning workers), gender-specific strategies, new Americans (being mindful of language barriers)
• Fast Track Program for Military — enlisted and transitioning
• Focus on Women of Gases & Welding
• SkillsUSA and World Skills — increased recognition
• Collaboration with existing career exploration networks
• “Master Certification” designation program with all NAM-Endorsed Manufacturing Skills Certification system partners.
Activities are well underway for several of these initiatives. Meetings with branches of the military have resulted in a plan to implement SENSE Level 1 and the Certified Welder programs at the Army’s Fort Lee training facility. In addition, the military’s COOL and CERT Web sites have been updated to provide the current certification information for active and transitioning service people. Women of Gases & Welding, a joint initiative between AWS and GAWDA, was formed last fall.
A luncheon featuring AWS Vice President Nancy Cole as the keynote speaker was held at GAWDA’s Spring Management Conference in April. A strategic planning committee has been formed and a networking event is being planned for FABTECH this November.
Your AWS will continue to focus its initiatives on these priorities. We will look for new collaborations as well as expand our current ones. Working together, we can and must address the welding skills shortage and ensure our industry is well positioned for growth and success for the future.