Welding training: Worth it or not?

Welding training: Worth it or not?


The recession has caused a lot of people to rethink their career choices as they have received their pink slips or seen a cut in their salary. With the promise of jobs from the government in infrastructure development, many have gone back to school for retraining. The welding industry with its promise of large numbers of retiring weldors, job vacancies and high wages have prompted many to seek out welding training in hopes of getting jobs in one aspect of welding or the other. This has filled many welding schools to over capacity and others to add local branches and offer additional courses in welding and cutting. Some schools have offered a simple training to receive basic level certification and others offer diplomas, associate and even bachelor's degrees. A very large number of these aspiring weldors are graduating only to find that the jobs promised do not materialize or that the starting pay is much lower than ever dreamed. Some find a place at union halls only to sit and watch older, more experienced weldors still hanging on to their jobs receive the jobs. Others find themselves starting out as lowly welder's helpers that go and fetch everything from extra welding rods to serving as an extra hand to hold things. Some do go out and find a place in the welding world, but not exactly where they expect. A select few do seem to not miss a beat and find themselves exactly where they thought they'd be.

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Like other "popular" occupations and projections of the past, the welding jobs open in this country haven't quite met the expectation...yet. The money and time that these students are investing in training as a weldor is quite significant. At the very least, in most welding schools run by state technical programs, it's a two year commitment. Tuition, fees, and books can at a major welding school can range from ten to twenty thousand a year or higher. Many drop out after the first semester, and more drop out along the way, as they become disillusioned with their job prospects, seeing fellow students graduating and not finding work and turning to other career fields in search of employment. Some have to go into a full apprentice program at a local union just to "start" over and wait their time. Is the welding training worth it? That is the question that most should consider before they start their welding training. Here are three different ideas you should consider if you are thinking about making welding a career choice and pursuit expensive training.

1) Not all people will make good weldors. It requires fine motor skills and creative thinking. It seems that everyone that starts welding never questions their aptitude for welding. It's a critical error. Just as with other jobs, not everyone that wants to be a weldor WILL be a weldor due to aptitude. It's hard for the average person, thrilled by welding to admit they don't possess the skills or the patience for welding, especially after all the reality TV shows that feature people welding making it seem so ordinary and easy. The reality is that welding takes much practice and natural ability. While all people may gain some level of competence, not every student will excel, just because they are in school to learn. If you like tedious, hot, long work, surrounded by a noisy and life threatening environment, then welding MAY be right for you. Creative thinking involves problem solving. Welding is as much about problem solving as it is being able to make a weld. Unfortunately many welding schools ignore this fact, and produce graduate weldors who can make a robot- like weld, yet can't figure out what they need to do to correct a poor fit-up of a joint. Creative thinking is a skill that must already be possessed or it will need to be learned on-site, where experience is a cruel teacher that eats up and spits out many welding graduates.

2) Even though you may be a good welder, there may be someone better that will get the job you want. Constant practice in and out of school helps maintain skills to stay sharp and up to date. It takes commitment of time and energy. It takes persistence and determination to stay on top of the welding game. Admittedly it can get dull and boring, if not repetitive to stay in practice when the call comes. If gritty determination and persistence is not something that you possess, welding training may not be for you. However, if it is, get buckled down for the ride.

3) There are alternative outlets where a person can learn welding in a better environment. Starting out at a union hall MAY be a better option from the start since they train you the way they feel is best for you, and provide you a more one on one opportunity. The down side is that this can be a long process and also a very political one. A better solution for many is to find a "mentor" who will be able to point and guide the weldor along the way. As stated, many weldors are retiring from the workforce. Many of these would love to be able to pass their trade on to someone who'd appreciate it and ultimately make it their career. These guys are around. It's likely you may already know someone who would create such a relationship with you by either allowing you to work alongside of them or come over at night after hours and teach you exactly what you need to do. If not, go to the local welding shop and just ask around if someone might be interested. You might be surprised who will help, or it might be just a way to get your foot in the door.

Be sure to thoroughly evaluate your aptitude, your commitment and how you learn best before starting welding training. Jobs are out there, and more will materialize, but in the down economy people are holding on to their jobs longer, and employers are being more selective in who they employ. If you aren't fully confident that you can handle these issues, you need to look elsewhere for your career. However, if you think you have what it takes, be ready to put in the time and effort it takes to be the best of the best for the maximum chance of success and making school worth the money.