Welding Pays Off: The Importance of “Upskilling” in Today’s Welding Education Programs

By Jamey McIntosh, Realityworks RealCareer Product Manager

Every April, educators, students and business leaders come together to bring awareness to and speak about the value of welding. National Welding Month is an annual celebration and recognition of welding’s impact on our world and the important role it plays in our everyday lives. Now is the perfect time to consider just how important it is that our welding students have the skills they need to succeed.

The demand for skilled welders is growing. The American Welding Society predicts a need of almost 200,000 welders in the United States by 2020, while the Manufacturing Institute has stated that in the next decade alone, there will be a need for nearly 3.5 million manufacturing jobs.

To ensure the welding industry is prepared to meet this demand, today’s welding educators and instructors must make certain that their programs and training methods are equipping today’s young people with the skills employers are looking for. And, in a workforce that will increasingly require those who are agile, adaptable and highly qualified, “upskilling” students above and beyond the fundamentals of welding will only make them more employable in a competitive, high-demand industry.

Skills pay off

With an oversupply of entry-level welders and a growing number of skilled welders ready to retire, welding and manufacturing companies are paying more and more attention to welding codes and qualification standards. This means welders who are certified, or who are able to examine and test their own welds, are more attractive than ever before – and their pay reflects that attraction. According to the Fabricators & Manufacturers Association International’s “2013 Salary/Wage & Benefit Survey,” a welder who is certified to AWS, ASME and other codes has the broadest salary range of any shop floor position, up to $83,000 for a base salary, not including overtime and bonuses.

While having basic welding skills can certainly pay off, other skill sets can also pay large dividends. Figure 1 depicts the many paths one can take when considering a welding-related career. For instance, the chart shows the average pay for a welding supervisor and a manufacturing production supervisor. With reported average pay ranges around $12,000 higher than an average welder, these highly skilled positions are rewarded with higher pay.

When speaking with various workforce development boards and companies within the welding industry, it’s not uncommon to hear welding and manufacturing industry representatives say that they routinely pay more per hour for employees who can visually inspect welds and supervise others in the creation of quality welds over those who could simply create the quality welds.

Barring geography, experience, skill level and employer, the message is clear: By focusing on basic skill development and the development of additional career-specific skills such as weld testing and qualification, educators and trainers are opening the doors to higher pay, more benefits and in the long run, more successful careers.

Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared in the November 2016 issue of “Welding Productivity.” Click here to view the article in its entirety.

Instructor Uses In-Helmet Guides to Boost Student Confidence During Live Welding

by Emily Kuhn

For Hutchinson Community College Welding Technology Instructor Greg Siepert, Realityworks’ guideWELD™ LIVE real welding guidance system is a portable, easy-to-use way to rid seasoned welders of bad habits and boost the confidence of first-time welders.

“We struggle with confidence a lot,” said Siepert, who teaches the first year of this Kansas vocational school’s two-year welding program. “When students are in the booth, I can’t tell them in the middle of a weld that they’re right where they need to be, but when they don’t know, even if it looks right, they aren’t confident in their ability. This system gives them real-time feedback on what they’re doing and if it is right or wrong, and it builds their confidence.”

That real-time feedback is provided inside the welding helmet on work angle, travel angle and arc speed during live, arc-on welding. It occurs in the user’s periphery vision, similar to the manner in which video games communicate information to players on-screen or cars communicate speed and mileage to drivers from the instrument panel. With the guideWELD LIVE helmet in place, users see real-time guides on the right and left sides of their vision, and can focus on those guides or their weld as needed during a weld.

The guideWELD LIVE system, which works with almost any MIG welding machine, consists of a welding helmet, speed sensor board and hand sensor. Once the user has calibrated his or her welding gun, he or she can turn on all three indicators simultaneously or focus on only one or two at a time.

“The big application for this system is for those who are struggling with those basics,” said Siepert. “You can give this to them, show them the indicators and watch them make the change.”

According to Siepert, a lack of confidence is a common problem among his first-year welding students. He shared the story of one student who had the skills down but “didn’t feel right about his welds.”

“I had him work with it for 30 minutes,” Siepert recalled, “and he came back and said he got it – and his welds had vastly improved. So did his confidence.”

Although Siepert teaches a beginning welding program, his classes often include students with a range of backgrounds and experiences. In addition to reinforcing basic welding technique and positioning, Siepert also found the guideWELD LIVE system to be a useful supplement for retraining.

“This system is good for students who come out of industry or another program or from being taught at home and had bad habits,” said Siepert. “Habits are hard to break, and this would help – they would know exactly what to correct in real time.”
Being able to easily introduce the system to students of different technical abilities was key, according to Siepert, who started using it with a class of varying abilities. Some students had never welded before, some had some education and one was a displaced worker with no formal education but years of experience.

“The setup is phenomenal because it’s quick and fast,” said Siepert. “I could pick the system up and move it to a booth, and it didn’t involve any modification of what I did. All I had to do was show the student how to use it.”

As Siepert pointed out, however, being able to successfully introduce the system to a new student goes beyond just getting them started. For those who have never seen this kind of technology in a welding shop before, successful implementation can mean establishing an understanding of why this type of tool works – and that it is OK to use.

“As welding education improves and technology improves along with it, and we slowly start moving away from how it’s been done for years, there’s still a consensus that if there are supporting teaching aids used, it’s a walk of shame,” said Siepert. “We’re trying to fight that… this system adds another level to their education.”

The guideWELD LIVE system includes curriculum, which features units on safety, welding defects and welding procedure specifications. Presentation slides, teacher guides, worksheets and tests are provided as well.

“Any time you can take away frustration and build confidence, you gain retention,” said Siepert. “This system is a stepping stone from the virtual world to the real world.”

10 Ways to Use a Portable Workstation in Your Shop

The importance of storage space in a Career & Technical Education (CTE) classroom or shop cannot be understated. After all, the more organized you are, the better you can manage your classroom and keep your students safe, on task, engaged and productive. Yet CTE educators constantly tell us that they don’t have enough storage space in their classrooms – and much of the time, the storage solutions that are in place take up valuable work space.

That’s why we created our Portable Workstations. Available in two sizes and with locking wheels, these sturdy carts feature three drawers, one of which locks, plus a tough, grated work surface that is tough and durable.

Roll this mobile welding workstation into any area of your classroom or workshop to:

  1. Store tools and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
  2. Complete woodworking, metalworking or small engine repair projects
  3. Keep your favorite tools close at hand and safely locked up when not in use
  4. Work with up to 250 lbs. of materials on the small workstation and up to 500 lbs. of materials on the large workstation
  5. Safely store gas cylinders for even the largest welders and projects
  6. Protect your equipment from slag and grinding dust
  7. Work on welding projects (the large cart even includes a removable welding curtain)
  8. Demonstrate techniques and best practices where all students can effectively observe
  9. Store projects and extra scraps
  10. Set up a portable welding work space or learning station anywhere

Learn more about our Portable Workstations from the Realityworks team member who helped engineer them, Mechanical Engineer Mike Zaborowski:

Welding Education in the 21st Century: Engaging Today’s Students in a Growing Career Path

In July 2016, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statics reported the need for 379,000 manufacturing positions – an increase of more than 280 percent since 2008.1 Industry leaders report that these job openings will continue to grow; according to the American Welding Society, there will be a need for over 400,000 welders by the year 2025.2 In the next decade alone, the Manufacturing Institute predicts a need for nearly 3.5 million manufacturing jobs.3 As the nation’s workers and infrastructure age, demand for qualified workers in the manufacturing industry will continue to grow.

glimpseWhile manufacturing job openings grow, however, employers are struggling to find qualified workers to fill them. In fact, the number of open manufacturing positions is at its highest point in 15 years, but the rate of hiring has only increased by 36 percent since 2008.⁴ The nation is facing a significant skills gap, one that the Manufacturing Institute predicts could result in nearly 2 million of the industry’s anticipated job openings going unfilled.⁵

Technology can play a powerful role in the engagement of today’s students in these vital career paths. After all, 21st Century Learning is a technology-based learning style; it is second nature for today’s process-oriented, connected and media-driven students to use technology to communicate, collaborate and create. Brick-and-mortar school buildings may have remained relatively the same over the past century, but the advancement of technology means the tools available to instructors are completely different.

How educators use technology is key in equipping students with the skills the workforce needs to remain globally competitive, from manufacturing and welding and beyond – and Career and Technical Education (CTE) professionals are stepping up. From virtual reality simulation tools to certification programs and student-run businesses, CTE instructors are taking steps to engage today’s 21st century students in these growing career paths and give them hands-on opportunities to learn valuable trades.

Illinois education organization using tools, certifications to teach students industry-specific skills

skillsgapThe Career Education Associates of North Central Illinois (CEANCI) is an Education for Employment (EFE) organization that serves 10 school districts in the Rockford, IL area. It works with educators and industry leaders to help ensure that the 28,000 students in its coverage area (which includes 15 high schools and 19 middle schools) have curriculum, equipment and materials to help them learn targeted, industry-specific skills. As the region encompasses a strong manufacturing industry, one of those skills is welding – a skill that CEANCI System Director Margie Hartfiel says is worth investing in.

“When we look at the programs we fund, we make decisions that are tied directly to labor market information,” said Hartfiel, who has been working in education for 27 years. “Welding is a high-need area, and as our labor market ages, we are finding that the business partners we work closely with are telling us repeatedly that they need these particular skills.”

Industry certifications are one way CEANCI is helping its students learn industry-specific skills. CEANCI currently offers certifications in a variety of CTE pathways, including manufacturing, early childhood, culinary arts and industrial technology – all of which the EFE works with industry representatives to ensure the relevancy of.

In 2014, CEANCI helped 630 students earn certifications; that number grew to 2,303 in 2015 and Hartfiel predicts that this year, over 4,300 students will earn certifications. Support for the initiative is regionwide; area educators and industry representatives recognize the value of a student’s ability to graduate from high school and say, “Yes, I can do this, and I have proven it.”

guideweld Technology is another tool that CEANCI is using to equip students with in-demand welding skills. In 2015, CEANCI approved funding for the guideWELD® VR welding simulator and the guideWELD® LIVE real welding guidance system. Implemented as a pilot program in the Winnebago and Oregon school districts, the guideWELD VR simulators are used to introduce students to welding in a virtual, spark-free environment, while the guideWELD LIVE systems are used to help students hone live welding skills. CEANCI sees two specific benefits to the implementation of such technology: the ability to save money and the ability to demonstrate learned skills.

Click here to download the full PDF version of this case study and learn how welding education will impact the 21st century classroom.

Cool Tools: guideWELD® LIVE Named as Finalist for the 2016 EdTech Digest Awards

By Janelle Krause, Realityworks Public Relations & Events Specialist

We’re proud to share that our guideWELD® LIVE real welding guidance system has been named a finalist for the 2016 EdTech Digest® Cool Tools Awards, in the category of emerging technology solutions.

What makes guideWELD LIVE so “cool?” Our welding solutions were created to help today’s welding instructors engage 21st Century welding students with hands-on experiences in potential career areas, help address the skills gap, and address classroom management and safety concerns. One way to help students transition from practice welding in the virtual world to real, live welding without guidance is the guideWELD LIVE system.

With guideWELD LIVE, students get instant feedback on the main components of welding during live, arc-on welding. This allows students to perfect their techniques before moving on to real welding without any guidance at all.


Technology within the education system is constantly changing and evolving, and we want to ensure that instructors have the tools they need to engage and train students in potential career areas. EduTech Digest highlights companies that are trendsetters in education and are working to move the field forward every day to help educators teach more efficiently and effectively. We’ve made it our mission to do just that!

With the incorporation of the guideWELD LIVE system into their welding programs, educators have noted that students’ training time decreases, while confidence levels improve. Students are able to conduct better weld in less time with assistance from the guidance icons within the guideWELD LIVE helmet. Being the only system with in-helmet guidance on the market today, guideWELD LIVE is a truly innovative system.

We are humbled and honored by this award, and we’ll continue striving to provide educators with the tools they need to educate our future workforce while providing the latest in technology.

Other recognized finalists for the 2016 EdTech Digest Cool Tools award include Discovery™ Education, PBS® and SMART® Technologies.

For more information on our welding education and training tools, click here.

Announcing a New Tool for Training High-Quality Welders: The RealCareer™ Bend Tester

By Jamey McIntosh, RealCareer™ Product Manager

With companies paying more and more attention to welding codes and qualification standards, the need to train high-quality welders is everywhere – and so is the need for products and programs that can help provide that training. Any facility, school or college that trains welders can benefit from high-quality training and qualification products. The new RealCareer Bend Tester can help.


The Bend Tester is a tabletop-size machine that conforms to AWS D1.1 specifications for guided bend testing. Not only can the Bend Tester bend up to 3/8 inch mild steel, but it includes comprehensive curriculum that walks both instructors and students through the bend testing qualification process.

With a guided bend tester, welding educators can empower their students to prepare for qualification tests and train to become certified. Welding students can see the true quality of their welds and validate the need to follow proper practices and procedures determined by welding codes. This exposure to welding qualification can give students a leg up when it comes to qualifying welds because they understand what is expected and have confidence in their ability to meet weld qualification standards.

The Bend Tester comes with two posters: One poster depicts machine operation basics and one poster enables students to verify whether their bended welds would be considered qualified by a Certified Welding Inspector (CWI).

Additionally, we have included a comprehensive, 8-lesson curriculum to ensure that both instructors and students understand how to qualify a weld through bending. The curriculum provides the instructor with detailed instruction on the proper ways to qualify welds. This includes:

  • Proper preparation of the metal you will be using for testing
  • Proper welding techniques for the weld you are going to be testing
  • Proper cutting and preparation of the metal that you will be bending
  • Proper bending techniques
  • Proper assessment standards to determine whether your welds would be considered qualified

PowerPoint slides, notes, handouts, assignments and other supporting materials are included. Click here to download a free poster that details the Bend Tester parts and pieces.


In a world where titles and certification carry weight, and the need for high-quality welders will only continue to grow, the ability to equip your students with high-quality skills will only help them succeed in welding career paths. This product is a complete testing package for your students to understand, practice and evaluate the quality of their welds. It also helps instructors and students alike gain understanding of quality welding. Consider this to be a training tool for the future employment of your student welders!

Additional resources:

Find Realityworks at the 2015 FABTECH Expo!

By Emily Kuhn, Realityworks Marketing Automation Specialist

Considered North America’s largest metal forming, fabricating, welding and finishing event, the 2015 FABTECH Expo will bring together over 40,000 attendees and 1,500 exhibitors to view the latest industry products and developments, find the tools to improve productivity and discover new solutions in the areas of metal forming, fabricating and welding – and Realityworks is excited to be a part of this expo for the third year in a row!

We will be displaying our full RealCareer® Welding Solutions product line at Booth #N11082 in Chicago November 9-12. That includes:

  • The guideWELD® VR welding simulator, a virtual reality welding training and education tool that gives users instant feedback on core welding techniques in a safe, virtual environment
  • The guideWELD® LIVE real welding guidance system, a live welding training and education tool that gives users instant feedback on core welding techniques during live, arc-on welding (which you can try for yourself in our live welding booth!)
  • [NEW] The RealCareer™ Weld Defects Kit, a hands-on teaching tool for welding education and training that teaches users how to identify and correct common weld defects and discontinuities

We will also be offering a preview of our latest welding education and training tool, the RealCareer™ Bend Tester. This hydraulic, manual-guided bend test fixture for destructive weld testing allows for easy-to-use bend testing in a classroom or welding lab.


Visit us at Booth #N11082 to try our guideWELD® LIVE in our live welding booth.

To learn more about FABTECH 2015 or register, visit the expo’s website.

We hope to see you there!

Welding Students Excel with Innovative Welding Simulator

By Janelle Krause, Realityworks PR & Events Specialist

With a school motto of “Bridging academics and technology,” it’s no surprise that instructors at the J. Harley Bonds Career Center in Greer, SC enjoy using advanced technology to teach students the skills they need to pursue an associate degree, a four-year degree or a career following graduation. By combining academics and advanced technology, this technical school enables students to pursue career interests like animation, culinary arts, machine tooling and welding while they earn high school credit.


Realityworks offers both a virtual reality welding simulator and a live welding guidance system for welding education and training.

One piece of technology that has been particularly successful at the career center is the guideWELD® VR welding simulator by Realityworks. Since December 2014, center instructors have been using this tool to teach welding students basic techniques while emphasizing safety and saving money on the consumables that are needed for live welding.

Success during first use Rodian Manjarres is a second-year student with a lot of experience using guideWELD® VR. Her first experience with the welding simulator occurred after her welding instructors, Todd Varholy and Eddie Squires, encouraged her to use it to prepare for her Action Skills competition at that year’s SkillsUSA National Skills & Leadership Conference. Because the  welding simulator provides users with real-time feedback on basic welding form and positioning in a virtual environment, both instructors felt that it would allow competition judges to understand Rodian’s welding skills more easily than if Rodian just explained how she welded.


South Carolina welding student Rodian Manjarres used the guideWELD® VR welding simulator during the South Carolina SkillsUSA competition earlier this year.

Learn how Rodian trained on the welding simulator and eventually honed her skills enough to beat most of her classmates – and keep an eye on her angle while conducting live welding – by downloading the complete customer testimonial.

Old Dog, New Tricks: Working to Bring New Welding Training into Today’s Classroom

By: Greg Siepert, Hutchinson Community College Welding Technology Instructor & Jamey McIntosh, Realityworks RealCareer Product Manager

Note: This article was originally published in the August 2015 issue of the American Welding Society’s Welding Journal. AWS members can read the complete article on page 88 of the current issue. Not a member? Click here to join and access this monthly welding and metal fabricating industry publication.

The old adage that “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” sometimes seems more like a challenge to be proven wrong than a statement of wisdom. With today’s global market and the evolution of new technology, a new adage may be more appropriate: “adapt or be left behind.” As you look at the landscape of business, training, welding education and manufacturing, sometimes the issue may not be determining what new tricks are out there, but determining which tricks you should be learning best.


It is important that we look at the available training tools and reflect on how to use those tools, because it may sometimes be more effective to revamp existing ideas than start from scratch. By doing this, new tricks in welding education may not seem as impossible to accomplish.

In the world of welding education, and education as a whole, we are on the edge of a skill loss. As baby boomers start to retire, we not only see a skills gap in the welding industry but knowledge being lost in welding education. Furthermore, the average welder is between 50 and 55 years old, and the average welding instructor is not that that different. This forces newer welding educators to make up for the loss of experience with new and innovative techniques, making it necessary to think about welding education and new ways to teach while continuing to create a quality product: the next welding employee.

One example of this type of educator is Greg Siepert, a welding instructor at Hutchinson Community College in Hutchinson in Kansas and the American Welding Society’s 2013 Howard E. Adkins Instructor Membership Award winner. Years of experience has taught Siepert that you need to reflect on what you teach and why you are teaching the way you are. He has learned it is possible to learn new tricks from old practices and help your welding students in their quest for welding careers.

“I still feel like a rookie in the field of welding education,” says Siepert, “but I have been blessed to have worked with many in the field including, fantastic mentors, enthusiastic students and peers who continue to work day in and day out to help create quality welders.”

When he first became a welding educator, Siepert’s goal wasn’t new: he wanted to train the best welders as they prepared for the field of their choice. Like many new instructors, he envisioned every student who graced his classroom learning the subject, graduating and entering the field of welding. Siepert soon realized that he needed to find new ways to be successful and adapt his environment for the success of his students.

For instance, Siepert recalls noticing that many of his new students had been enticed into the welding field because someone had mentioned the promise of a sustainable career that would provide them with a livable wage no matter where they decide to go. His students wanted to learn career skills, and they were hoping to get a job sooner rather than later to support their families.

Unfortunately, the commonly practiced order of welding education lessons meant Siepert often wouldn’t cover procedures needed for local industry until the following semester – and his student’s reactions made him start to question the standards he was following.

“It was heart breaking to see a student’s face drop when I told them that,” said Siepert, who wanted to prepare his students to earn wages and support themselves as soon as possible following graduation from his welding program. “So I started to ask why we do the things we do. Is it best for welding education or just because it has been done this way throughout the years? Can we learn new ways of doing things or just change the way we do things, so that we can make welding education better?”

It’s not always about learning new tricks, but seeing what tricks help and what tricks do not. In some cases, it might be worthwhile to update your welding practices or modifying what is being taught. Doing so might better prepare your students for careers and allow them to be gainfully employed no matter what.

American Welding Society members, log in to read the complete article on page 88 of the August Welding Journal issue. Not a member? Click here to join.