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Getting young people interested in pursuing careers in welding is a hard sell, acknowledges Duncan Estep, director of the National Center for Welding Education and Training (Weld-Ed), a public-private partnership based at Lorain County Community College (LCCC) in Ohio.
But that’s part of the missions of Weld-Ed: to promote reforms in welding education and provide training and professional development to community college and high school welding instructors.
“Welding is not held in high regard,” Estep says, noting that people think it is dirty and dangerous and that there are few jobs due to factory shutdowns and outsourcing.
Although many factories have closed down in recent years, “welding is a fundamental technology in manufacturing,” and there are plenty of jobs, he says, adding that many projects, such as high-speed rail systems, can’t be outsourced.
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Weld-Ed’s outreach activities to get secondary school students interested in pursuing careers in welding stress the high-tech nature of modern welding jobs, Estep says. LCCC offers a two-year degree for welding technicians, who are responsible for quality control and serve as the liaison between engineers and welders.
Weld-Ed’s State of the Welding Industry Report estimates that nearly 239,000 new and replacement jobs in welding will be created within the next eight years, much of it due to retirements in an industry with an average worker age of 56.
To recruit more people into welding education programs, the report suggests:• Developing of national accreditation standards• Reaching out to K-12 students, adults who are unemployed or underemployed, and non-tradition populations, such as women• Improving public relations efforts to portray welding as “a noble, stable, and high-paying occupation with growth potential”
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