Who would take the time to become a Certified Welder without the promise of a job? Every welder who enrolls in a class for basic welding training or additional certification wants to know if there’s a good chance of finding a job.
Is that a realistic expectation in today’s uncertain economic times?
While overall job growth is not keeping pace with the current employment needs in general, the welding industry is currently poised for growth with predictions of increased manufacturing jobs. Both manufacturing trends and welding school enrollment numbers suggest that the welding industry, as well as the broader manufacturing industry, are moving rapidly toward a season of growth and security for today’s welders.
Manufacturing and Welding Job Growth in the United States
The United States is still relatively strong in the manufacturing sector and is currently poised to challenge China for a greater segment of the manufacturing market.
The Fabricator reports Dr. Chris Kuehl’s, the economic analyst for the Fabricators & Manufacturers Association, Intl. (FMA), optimistic report about the rise of U.S. manufacturing in comparison to China:
"The Chinese built quickly on a base of low wage workers and significant government assistance as well as a very low valued currency that has allowed the growth of the export economy," he says. "The future is not looking so positive for the Chinese, however. Wages are growing at 17 percent annually, while in the U.S. they are growing at 3 percent.
"That is just for the average worker's wage," he stresses. "If one looks at the managerial levels and among skilled workers, the rate of Chinese wage growth is about 135 percent per year; in the U.S. that same group is seeing wage growth of 3.7 percent. The Chinese pay scale is still far less than in the U.S., but that gap is closing very fast."
In fact, Business Week reports that the manufacturing sector is leading the recovery of the U.S. economy. However, the process was quite difficult and painful. Vivien Lou Chen and Rich Miller write the following:
“Once-ailing manufacturers are enjoying a robust rebound as cost-saving moves from job cuts to a greater reliance on technology help drive stronger-than-forecast [sic] growth. The shift has helped set the stage for a potential ‘manufacturing renaissance,’ says James Paulsen, chief investment strategist at Minneapolis-based Wells Capital Management. He predicts the industry will set the pace for U.S. expansion and the American stock market during this decade, as technology did in the 1990s.
“‘Manufacturing is leading the whole economy,’ said Paulsen, whose firm oversees about $340 billion. U.S. manufacturers ‘had to find religion. They’ve really cleaned up their balance sheets. What is left is the cream of the crop.’”
As manufacturing jobs hold steady and even grow, welding schools have noticed a surge in enrollment.
Growth in Welding Jobs and at Welding Schools
Classes are not only full at welding schools, they’re literally filling up around the clock. Overnight classes have been added and continue to fill rapidly at Fox Valley Technical College in Wisconsin.
At Augusta Technical College in Georgia, the demand for welders is so great that there is a year-long waiting list for potential students. The American Welding Society estimates that for every two welders retiring, only one is entering the workforce. This means there’s no sign of the current demand for welding jobs letting up.
While no one can predict the future, these are encouraging trends for welding schools, welders, and manufacturers who may have weathered the worst of the economic storm. The overall economy continues to recover at a sluggish pace, but the good news is that welding remains a valuable skill that can lead to viable careers in a strong domestic manufacturing market.