Massive need for welders and other skilled trades

DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – There is a desperate need for workers in the skilled trades in the United States.

“Right now in the United States, there are three million manufacturing jobs open, unfilled, because of the skills gap, and in three to four years it’s going to be six million,” said Ed Monser, the president of Emerson which is one of the largest manufacturers in the Miami Valley.

The skills gap is a serious problem in the United States and can impact our economic growth.

“If we want to expand manufacturing we have to have more people who are technically competent,” said Monser. “Have the math skills, the problem-solving skills, the computer skills, and the technical skills to do the welding and electrical work. If we had more of those people we could grow faster.”

Monser said Emerson is working hard to expand the technical education capacity in the Miami Valley because it’s crucial to their long-term viability.

He was also very complimentary of the local workforce in the Miami Valley.

“In terms of the engineering strength I would say very good, and that comes from the University of Dayton and the long-term relationship there,” said Monser. “On the technicians side of the business, that’s a real challenge for us.”

Hobart Institute of Welding Technology in Troy is working to fill the skills gap, one welder at a time.

“A trade school means that they’re coming here, they’re getting a diploma, and for us they also have the opportunity to earn American Welding Society certifications,” said Melinda Jeffery, manager of marketing and career development at Hobart Institute of Welding Technology. “But a trade school is different from a university in that they’re not earning a degree, they’re not going to come here and learn English and math, or any of those kinds of things, they’re coming to learn welding. We’re a single-focus welding school.”

Jeffery said the American Welding Society is predicting a shortage of roughly 370,000 welders by 2026.

“There is growth in the field, but a lot of the shortage is coming from the retirements,” she said.

“I think the biggest misunderstanding is that it’s a dark, dungy-type trade, and it’s not as you can see here,” said Chip Prinz, director of corporate services at Hobart Institute of Welding Technology. Prinz is also a graduate of Hobart, and said a career in welding has provided him steady income and the ability to put food on the table for his family.

Prinz said he believes there’s a shortage of welders because for too long our society put more value and esteem in bachelor’s degrees, and the skilled trades suffered because of it.

Grant Johnson, 19, of Batesville, Indiana just graduated from the institute this spring.

“I’ve always had an interest in welding,” he said. “I’d like to go into the pipe industry. I heard there’s a lot of money in pipe and there are so many opportunities with it.”

Johnson said he is not concerned about finding a job.

“A large majority of our students come right out of high school,” said Jeffery.

The school offers two programs: the structural program which is 23 weeks, and a combination program that’s structural and pipe and lasts 38 weeks.

“I would say 90 percent of them take the combination program, structural and pipe, because it opens more doors,” she said.

“I believe we have about an 89 percent placement rate right now,” said Prinz. “We cannot get them out the door fast enough. Everybody needs them; all over the country and all over the world.”

“There’s a tremendous shortage in welding, but also in all the skilled trades,” said Ron Scott, VP and General Manager of the Hobart Institute of Welding Technology. “There’s such a need, and you know you’re going to be employed if you get into skilled trades.”

“You do not have to go to a four-year university, or a two-year community college,” said Jeffery. “You can come here, spend nine-and-a-half months or 38 weeks with us, do what you’re supposed to do, and get out making a really good living.”

She said starting average pay is about 16-18 dollars an hour, but very quickly she said they’re jumping to 22-24 dollars an hour because companies will bring them in at a lower rate to make sure they can do what they say they can do and then give them a bump.

According to the institute’s pamphlet, tuition for the welding programs range from $10,065 for the 23-week program, and $16,625 for the 38-week program.

Scott added that they’re an accredited school for student loans and Pell Grants, and stressed that they’re also veteran friendly and accept students under the G.I. Bill.

Jeffery said there are 18 scholarship opportunities available through the school and the Troy Foundation, and the American Welding Society.

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