Virtually every industrial processing facility, or manufacturing plant ranging from the wood-stove shop down the road to nuclear power plants, relies on some form of welding. In the following paragraphs I will explain some of the types of welding jobs, and the common welding processes that apply to them, that one can consider in pursuing welding as a hobby or career.
Homeowner / Hobby Farm / Metal Art
The homeowner or back yard welder generally only needs minimal welding knowledge, basic welding skills, and does not need certification. Projects such as repairing lawn furniture, the neighbors’ broken rotor tiller handle, or building your demolition derby car, are some of the common welding scenarios the back yard welder engages in. A quality basic GMAW/MIG welder will enable the back yard /homeowner welder to handle any job in the neighborhood. The addition of a small plasma cutting machine to your roster, is a great option to the traditional, and more dangerous oxyacetylene cutting system. Selecting the above suggested equipment, or equivalent, allows for the welding, and cutting of carbon steel, stainless and aluminum. This information, and machine recommendations, also applies to the aspiring welding artist.
The skill and certification a production welder requires varies according to the items being produced or manufactured. Welding farm gates for example, requires minimal welding skill and knowledge, as opposed to welding components for a 300 ton crane. The processes that apply to production welding vary from basic manual stick welding, to advanced semi automatic, and fully automatic procedures. Although production welding satisfies the needs of some, many welders choose to upgrade to more sophisticated type welding careers. Production welding is very repetitive, and people tend to become bored with the robotic scenario of production welding. On the positive side, a production welding job gets one’s foot in the door, and can possibly lead to a more advanced, satisfying career in welding.
Certified Building Trades Welder
The certified welder (tradesperson) represents the most sophisticated, challenging, and rewarding welding career choice. The most common mechanical building trades are present throughout industrial, and commercial facilities, and composed of both the union affiliated, and non-affiliated sector. The following are the most common affiliated building trades; (amongst others) providing career jobs for building trade certified welders:
- Boilermakers: (www.boilermakers.org)
- Iron Workers: (www.ironworkers.org)
- United Association (UA): (www.ua.org)
- Sheet Metal Workers: (www.smwia.org)
Becoming a building trades certified welder, regardless of which trade, affiliated or non-affiliated, is usually subject to, and must comply with, strict government and department of labor rules and regulations. Although specialty welding school courses are available, this training option still requires the welder to accumulate sufficient minimal hours of related work experience in order to qualify for journey-person or certified trades-person status. The most reliable road to follow is a department of labor recognized apprenticeship program. Some welding shops in your local area will possibly hire and indenture you as a welding apprentice as well.
Welder Operator / Technician
Automated welding equipment, including orbital, and submerged-arc machines, etc., are usually operated by specially trained journey-person welders. The welders job is to enter predetermined data (voltage, current, travel speed , etc.) into the machines computer; the welder then starts, and monitors (in case of a malfunction), the machine as it completes the preprogrammed procedure.
Most union affiliated projects, and fabrication shops, regardless of which trade is involved, require that only certified welders having journey-person status qualify for such training. This policy protects and assures future jobs for the professional certified welder. Today’s technology makes it possible to virtually train anyone how to operate this type of equipment.
For the readers considering perusing a career in welding, I suggest that you look into attending a pre-apprenticeship program in your area. These programs are often provided by your State /Provincial Department of Labor, or government sponsored employment agency.
Written by Brian Chalmers