For the past few years, it seems like we’ve been inundated with reports that proclaim an impending worker shortage in the trade professions. And, not to belabor the point with this article, but it looks like the fun isn’t over. According to various sources, the U.S. will likely experience massive worker shortages in the welding and utility fields sooner than any of us really feel comfortable with.
Worker Shortages Coming Soon
If you’re ready to have your mind blown, check this out: the average age of welding and utility workers right now in the U.S. is 55 and older, with many of these workers set to retire in the not-too-distant future. With this type of mass exodus on the horizon, industry experts predict that these sectors will experience worker shortages upward of 300,000 within the next decade. While this news bodes well for the apparently rare few that plan to enter the welding and utility fields, it doesn’t look good for the society that relies on this type of skilled labor.
One of the problems we’re faced with, as some sources suggest, revolves around the stigma surrounding pursuing careers in the trades. From an early age, students in the U.S. have been steered toward careers that require, at the least, a four-year degree from a conventional college or university. For whatever reason, pursuing vocational training has been viewed as inferior to pursuing a more academic calling. Students have not typically received much encouragement to explore skilled trades, and as a result, both the welding and utility fields have failed to attract new prospects.
As a result, we can expect to see manufacturers move for more automation to fill these gaps. Or, even worse, manufacturers will begin to outsource these types of fabrication jobs overseas. In either event, understaffed operations will negatively affect manufacturing profit margins, which will ultimately affect the U.S. economy.
What Action Have We Taken?
The welding and utility industries are more than aware of this trend and have begun taking steps to correct it. New education and mentorship opportunities have been put into place. For instance, the American Welding Society supports SENSE (Schools Excelling through National Standards Education), an accredited program that helps schools in training prospective welders. We’ve seen other programs locally in our area as well, though it focuses on various trades in the construction field.
The federal government has taken notice as well, and it has issued legislation that grants special provisions for students who opt to attend vocational schools. The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act helps prospective students access training and employment, and it matches employees with employers. Other legislation, like the Every Student Succeeds Act and the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act.
So, You’re Considering Getting Into Welding and Utility Work…
Granted, welding and utility work aren’t necessarily “glamorous” professions. But, it working in these fields has some definite upsides. For one thing, the welding and utility fields provide a whole lot of job security, especially considering the upcoming worker shortages. When the country has an abundance of open jobs in your field, you’ll rest a whole lot easier knowing that your skills have value.
In many cases, your specialized skills can result in increased wages. For anyone considering entering these fields, think about it this way. Short supply (skilled labor) + high demand (an abundance of vacant manufacturing jobs) = an opportunity to negotiate better wages and working conditions.
Finally, with the average annual cost of in-state college tuition at a public university running right around 10 grand, you might be better off financially by skipping that 4-year degree. You might not consider vocational training to be necessarily cheap either, but at least you won’t have to trade the soul of your firstborn child to finance it. Plus, apprenticeships in trade fields typically pay you while you learn. Often, by the time your training has ended, you can enter the workforce without any debt.
- The Worker Shortage in the Welding and Utility Industries
- Combating the Welder Shortage
- The American Welding Society SENSE Program
- Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act Overview
- Every Student Succeeds Act
- Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act