Welding Industry Goes Hollywood

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We’ve all been hearing about the projected lack of skilled welders…  In fact, I’ve been talking about it a lot here on this site, and over at JoeWelder.com.  

I recently came across an article over at PlantEngineering.com:

They cite a recent poll from the FABTECH International & AWS Welding Show “revealed executives cited the lack of employee skills as a leading obstacle to growth.” And how organizations like FABTECH and Fabricators & Manufacturers Association International are using celebrity spokesmen to tout the opportunites in manufacturing– for skilled workers.

READ “Celebrities help draw attention to skilled worker shortage: he data is there; now it’s supported by folks like Jay Leno and John Ratzenberger”

It sounds like a good idea…  and they’re targetting young people, to get them interested in manufacturing as a career opportunity….

but something struck me as I read more closely.  A quote from Jerry Shankel, president and CEO of the Fabricators & Manufacturers Association, International (FMA):

They [manufacturing executives] report their biggest challenge today is finding skilled workers, especially young people, who have the knowledge to handle the increasingly sophisticated tasks required in manufacturing.”

The phrase that caught my eye was “young people.”  What about older, middle aged workers. The ones being laid off, who’s jobs are outsourced to China, Mexico, or any market where labor is cheaper.  I can’t help but wonder if these executives are looking for young people because they work cheaper, they don’t have families to support, mortgage payments, insurance…  all the things that go along with being not so young.

What are your thoughts?  

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3 comments on “Welding Industry Goes Hollywood”:

  1. Pat Lee

    Hello:
    I work at the Fabricators & Manufacturers Association and there’s a good reason why one of our objectives is to target young people.

    The average age of a worker in manufacturing is 55. Most of those people will be retired in 10 years or less and when they are gone, there are not enough younger workers right now coming up behind them to replace them. They go and the industry’s collective knowledge base goes with them.

    But, we can’t wait till they all have retired to try and replace them. Right now we need to be convincing students as young as grade school that manufacturing provides viable careers and that to work with your hands and your brain is a good thing. They need to understand that you don’t need to be a star athlete, a sports agent, a brain surgeon or an attorney to make a decent living and raise a family in North America.

    The particular article you reference focused on just one of the levels at which FMA works. We’ve provided skills training for existing workers in our industry for more than 30 years. Hands-on, practical training designed to keep current employees up-to-date with technical skills that allow them to work with the latest technologies. Beginning just last year we added to that training program a formal certification program for precision sheet metal workers, which we hope over time will develop into the same kind of respected program that the AWS certification program has already become. So actually, this approach of targeting young people is a relatively new one for us — we’ve only been focused on tomorrow’s workforce for about five year.

    There’s been a lot of stuff written in the past few years about how jobs in the U.S. have been sent overseas because of cheaper labor. But those jobs are coming back and we are lacking employees with the skills to keep them here.

    We are still hearing from employers that they can’t find people with the math and technology skills it takes to run today’s sophisticated equipment. In fact, employers are lamenting the fact that many times they can’t hire most of the people who apply for the positions they want to fill because they simply can’t read a ruler!

    So, lots of change is needed. We need to be sure that the U.S. citizenry at large has respect for the people in our country who are technically skilled and do earn a living “with their hands”.
    While there is nothing wrong with having a college diploma, it’s important that children and their parents and their teachers know that it doesn’t guarantee that you’ll actually know how to do anything practical, and not having one doesn’t make you worthless. We’ve lost our respect in North America for people who work in skilled technical jobs — from bricklayers to plumbers to machinists and electricians. And we need to get it back.

    “Making things” is what made America the wealthiest country in the world and a “superpower” in the 20th century. For every manufacturing job created, somewhere between three and seven additional jobs are created in other industries.

    Most manufacturing started with just one person making something — I believe that’s called tinkering — and then finding a market for the thing they made. We need to get kids back into the concept of tinkering — and away from the TV and video games.

    I hope your readers will help in any way they can to encourage our foundation to reach young people so we can introduce them to the opportunities that manufacturing provides. Every small contribution helps.
    We offer scholarships and fund local manufacturing camps for junior high kids. But it all takes support. We need people to volunteer to review grant and scholarship applications, to volunteer to help at camps, to offer their companies as tour sites for camps, and finally we need donations in order to have the money to keep these programs growing. Every $5 counts. If your readers have cellphones and can send a text message, I encourage them to use this method to support the programs. Dial 90999 on their cell phone and text the word “tinker”, then hit enter. This simple act donates $5 to our foundation (charged to their phone bill) and the money goes 100% to fund camps and scholarships.

    Thanks for allowing me to clarify our work at FMA and express my opinion.
    I’m proud of my manufacturing background and proud to work for FMA.

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