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.”

Announcing Free Welding Career Exploration Curriculum

By Denise Bodart, Realityworks RealCare Product Manager and curriculum specialist

Welding is widely used in many areas, including construction, manufacturing and other industries. A background in welding can also lead to opportunities in education and management. Unfortunately, the gap between the skills job-seekers have and the skills employers need is continuously widening; the American Welding Society estimates that by 2020, there will be a shortage of 290,000 welding professionals.

We want to do our part to prepare today’s students with job-specific technical skills and provide them with essential opportunities to learn more about these needed careers. That’s why we created our RealCareer Welding Career Exploration curriculum, which takes a closer look at the variety of welding career opportunities available today.

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Our RealCareer Welding Career Exploration curriculum contains six lessons that examine the variety of welding careers available today.

In this free, six-lesson curriculum, students participate in a series of activities, research projects and more. Each lesson includes specific step-by-step instructions, measurable objectives, and materials lists. The curriculum aligns to the Common Career Technical Core standards.

Lessons topics include:

  1. Careers in Manufacturing and Production Welding
  2. Career Opportunities in Welding Fabrication.
  3. A Day in the Life of a Welding Engineer.
  4. Exploring a Career in Welding Quality Assurance or as a Certified Welding Inspector
  5. Looking Into a Career as a Pipe Welder.
  6. Exploration of Other Welding-Related Careers.

To access our RealCareer Welding Career Exploration curriculum, click here.

Looking for more career exploration resources for career & technical education programs? Consider the additional curricula we offer:

  • RealCareer Employability Skills curriculum. This free curriculum was created to help students in any program learn the important soft skills needed to prepare for a careers. It features six lessons, which can be used as a standalone unit or as a supplement to an existing career exploration program.

How do you plan to implement this career exploration curriculum in your welding program? Share your ideas in the comments below!

New Program Release: RealCareer® Welding Solutions

By Jamey McIntosh, Realityworks RealCareer Product Manager

As the skills gap continues to widen and educators focus on meeting 21st century learning with 21st century technology, the need for efficient methods of developing student’s skills – the skills of our future workforce – is becoming more and more important. The American Welding Society estimates that by 2020, there will be a shortage of 290,000 professionals, including inspectors, engineers, welders and teachers. For welding instructors and trainers, finding tools that provide the best course of student training will help engage and develop the skilled welders our workforce needs. One way to provide such training to 21st century learners while addressing the skills gap is through a robust welding solution – a solution that will transform your classroom into a 21st century welding lab.

A 21st century welding lab, complete with the technology and tools needed by 21st century students, would not only to engage students and encourage them to enter welding courses, but also to improve upon their welding techniques so they become proficient. Through three stages of learning, each of which incorporates various technologies, this welding solution emphasizes individual skill development, trains welders faster and in the end, develops our workforce.

Virtual reality welding simulators have become the first step of such a solution. The technology of these tools engages students in the skill of welding while giving them a safe environment in which to learn techniques, proper angles and muscle memory. The second stage of this welding solution would feature guidance and training during live welding in the welding booth. This guided reality experience would allow students to hone their skills, correct positioning and master welds faster while getting used to the real welding environment. Finally, the solution would see students do actual welds without guidance.

A robust welding solution is now available through Realityworks’ RealCareer® Welding Solutions program. It begins with the guideWELD™ VR welding simulator, a virtual reality welding simulator that enables students to master basic welding skills and learn proper technique in a safe, virtual environment. It continues with the guideWELD™ LIVE real welding guidance system, an in-helmet solution for live welding that provides immediate feedback on work angle, travel angle and speed while the user is performing live, arc-on welds. Both tools can be used by instructors – who can have as much as a 1/25 teacher-to-student ratio — to help with classroom management and ensure that improvements continue with all students.

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The guideWELD™ VR welding simulator enables students to master basic welding skills and learn proper welding technique in a virtual environment.

Instructors have seen the impact of the RealCareer Welding Solutions program, particularly feedback during live welding. In fact, instructors report that students have improved their technique by at least a week after being guided during live welds. As Hutchinson Community College Welding Instructor Greg Seipert stated after his students used guideWELD LIVE, “My students get it and their welds improve, along with their confidence.”

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The guideWELD LIVE real welding guidance system uses a heads-up display inside the welding helmet that provides immediate feedback during live welding.

It is vital that educators utilize technology that truly works for our future workforce. Realityworks’ RealCareer Welding Solutions program was made by welders for welding education to help develop the skills of today’s students. Finding a full solution for your classroom will not only prepare your 21st century students for the future but address our nation’s skills gap as well.

For more information about our RealCareer Welding Solutions program, including guideWELD VR and guideWELD LIVE, please contact us via email at information@realityworks.com

Career and Technical Education: Strengthening the Nation’s Workforce With Relevant, Career-Specific Training

According to ManpowerGroup’s recently released Talent Shortage Survey, an annual report that studies the difficulty of employers to fill jobs and what those jobs are, the top 10 hardest jobs to fill in the U.S. include skilled trade workers, accounting and finance professionals, IT staff, and engineers.1 These occupations, and more, are all ones that today’s career and technical education (CTE) programs can prepare students to succeed in—and therefore strengthen our nation’s workforce, global competitiveness, and economic health.

Today’s career and technical education programs benefit all students by combining rigorous academics with relevant, career-specific instruction. This combination often leads not only to a high school diploma but also to an industry-recognized credential, certificate, or college degree. In fact, a hallmark of today’s CTE programs is the partnership between high school and postsecondary institutions, which enables the achievement of certifications and degrees that prepare students to be college- and career-ready.

An example of such partnership is the one between North Carolina’s Lee County Schools and Central Carolina Community College (CCCC), the North Carolina Department of Commerce, and Caterpillar. In 2012, these education and industry members partnered to form the Welding Youth Apprenticeship Program. Through this two-year program, high school students take welding and manufacturing-related classes in their junior and senior years, then train at the college three days a week, and eventually work and train at Caterpillar two days per week.

Upon completion of the program, students have not only earned their high school diploma but also a CCCC welding certificate. Additionally, they will have completed Caterpillar’s 80-hour Accelerated Training and are ready to earn their OSHA Safety Card and Career Readiness Credential. The education, career experience, and employability skills gained through this partnership will help these students succeed in continuing education and the workforce.

Click here to finish reading this article, which is featured in MDR’s EdNET Insight August newsletter.