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National welder shortage expected to intensify as baby boomers retire and the need for skilled labor grows

According to the American Welding Society (AWS) the nation is in the midst of a welder shortage and only expects it to intensify as the current skilled workforce ages and begins to retire in larger numbers. Currently, there are more than 500,000 welders employed in the U.S. Many are engaged in work critical to our nation's infrastructure and well-being, such as energy production, highway transportation, manufacturing and military applications. According to the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics, there will be nearly 450,000 welding jobs available by 2014.

Additionally, data from select industry resources such as the National Tooling and Machining Association state that 40 percent of member companies are turning away business due to lack of skilled welders.

Kevin Krecmer, 22, recently experienced the high demand for welders first hand.

Krecmer entered the workforce in 2006 as an entry-level fitter/welder for Hanover after completing his associate of applied science degree in welding technology at North Harris College.

"I was actually in a welding class when a representative from Hanover came into the room and announced openings at the company. To me, it was quite a surprise to have employers come looking for you," said Krecmer.

Krecmer said he enjoys his work because it is gratifying to build something from just a drawing to a completed project and then see it go out the door into the world knowing his hand created it.

John Zizelmann, owner of Houston's Mattco Manufacturing, has also experienced the changing workforce-especially in the area of welding. Mattco was founded in 1947 and is the leading independent manufacturer of Mud Pump Fluid End Modules, Brake Equipment and Pulsation Control Devices used for Oil and Gas Drilling Rigs worldwide.

"In today's more technical welding environment, training and education are more important than in previous years," said Zizelmann. "A first class welder must master many processes using more diverse materials and more sophisticated equipment, while the actual work is sometimes performed in difficult and often hot environments. Companies like MATTCO are challenged to maintain a trained welding staff in an energy products industry where workers are mobile and able to move from job to job for diversity of experience, and advancement. Welders in the energy sector have been in strong demand for more than ten years and will continue to be in high demand for the foreseeable future."

Technical programs such as North Harris College's are a real resource to area industries that rely on highly skilled welders. To be able to hire trained welders, who really know their craft, brings high quality workmanship to manufacturers' products which increases their profitability.

Russell McDonald, NHC's chair and professor of welding has been training welders in the college's program for more than ten years and is proud to be helping the workforce shortage.

"Today, both men and women are enrolling and mastering this highly technical and sought after skill," says McDonald. "NHC has both a one-year certificate and a two-year associate's degree program, which includes learning through hands-on application of SMAW,GTAW, GMAW, and FCAW welding processes on all positions using pipe, plate, and structural shapes."

According to McDonald, entry-level technicians can expect to earn approximately twice that of minimum wage to start and average earnings of $28,650 after year two-all while working in a career that retains a high level of employment. "Many welders also work as independent contractors setting their own hours and rates and make very good money," said McDonald.

For more information about North Harris College's welding program, call Laurie Boyd at 281.618.5743.

North Harris College is located at 2700 W.W. Thorne Drive, one-half mile south of FM 1960 East, between Aldine-Westfield and Hardy Roads. Registration fall 2007 is now in progress. Classes begin Aug. 27. For more information about the college, call 281.618.5400 or visit northharris.lonestar.edu/welding.

NHMCCD, among the five largest and fastest growing community colleges in Texas, comprise, Cy-Fair College, Kingwood College, Montgomery College, North Harris College, Tomball College, six satellite centers, and The University Center.



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