The prospects for careers in welding are immense and dynamic. Welding is an essential skill that is necessary in many industries. According to the American Welding Society, an estimated 50 percent of the United States gross national product is affected by welding. That is rather impressive.
Welding is a profession you can build on. There are many career paths in welding that offer growth opportunities such as, skilled trades (many offer apprenticeships), manufacturing, fabrication, research, construction, technical sales, inspection, and aerospace. I encourage my students to investigate these opportunities and become lifelong learners. That’s what can make it a career and not just a job.
There are currently about 200 employment opportunities in our area for welding. Some of these include Fermilab, Magnetrol, Pipefitters 597, Richardson Electronics, and Sauber MFG. Former Waubonsee welding students work at some of these companies. One of the greatest rewards that teaching at Waubonsee gives me is seeing students achieve success. Nationally, there are nearly 40,000 welding-related jobs listed currently. And yes, SpaceX and Tesla both have welder positions posted!
In addition, there are other careers that use welding as part of their skill set, such as automation, maintenance, diesel mechanics/technicians, electricians, farm equipment repair, and machining.
So where is a good place to get started in welding? Waubonsee’s Plano Campus – The Innovation and Design Center! We are looking forward to and are excited about the grand reopening this fall. We will be offering welding in the new facility featuring state of the art equipment, which includes a robotic arc welding system. In addition, the Computer Aided Design and Drafting and the new Cybersecurity Programs will be featured in the newly renovated facility.
If you want to explore, learn the basics of, and get some “hands-on” exposure to welding, the “Survey of Welding” course is great since it introduces the major welding processes. This class will allow you to “test drive” the welding processes and assess if this is something you would like to pursue. Many Career and Technology Education (CTE) students take this class as an elective. It is also popular for the hobbyist, artist, and do-it-yourselfer to get some formal instruction of welding process principles and equipment operation. We offer two certificates (basic and advanced) and an associate degree in welding. The advanced certificate and associate degree programs feature open groove welding in plate, pipe welding, and fabrication. With the new facility, we are looking to enhance our curriculum and add obtainable welding credentials.
What does it require to be a welder? Welding is a skill that requires practice to gain advanced proficiency; much like sports, music, or anything that you want to get good at. Highly skilled welders can weld in all positions, with various processes, and on many types of material. Physical abilities include endurance, depth perception, hand–eye coordination, and manual dexterity. Analytical skills are required, along with attention to detail, interpreting blueprints and specifications, calculating dimensions, inspection, spatial reasoning, and learning newer technologies and processes. In many positions, administrative tasks, organizational skills, teamwork, time management, and the ability to communicate and work independently are required.
My career in welding has been very fulfilling and has had several of the career paths mentioned above. I attended Kauai Community College for welding, moved back to Chicago, where I passed my first weld test for a tack welder position (entry-level) and started working at the American Shipbuilding Company. The ship in the scene of the movie “Blues Brothers,” when Elwood Blues jumped their 1974 Dodge over the open 95th Street drawbridge, was the W.W Holloway. This ship was a riveted structure ship built in 1906, which we worked on. I got my first experience “bucking” rivets when we replaced a section of hull plate. With more welding practice, sometimes during lunchtime or after work, I qualified to weld on shell plate, which was 100% x-rayed to check for weld quality. I practiced more and passed the pipe test and became a Class – A welder. Every position I held afterward had one thing in common. I strived to be a better welder and learned as much as I could.
I had the opportunity to work as a Boilermaker (local 374), Senior Welding Instructor for Airco Technical Institute (where I worked to get my CWI), Pipe Welding Instructor for Commonwealth Edison, Robot Weld Technician for Cloos Robotics, Senior Technician - Weld Technology for Amoco Corporation, and Manufacturing Specialist – Weld Engineering for Caterpillar. None of these positions I would have gotten straight out of college. I mention these positions because they are illustrations of building blocks and a collection of valuable experience and knowledge to forge a career path. Sometimes it’s necessary to step out of your comfort zone to achieve. It can be both challenging and fun following a career path, especially in welding.
Visit www.waubonsee.edu/welding for more information about Waubonsee’s welding program. Also, visit https://www.careersinwelding.com/ and https://insights.globalspec.com/awsweldingdigest for more information about careers in welding.