Fortunately for welders, this scenario already exists. With an average of 300,000 new manufacturing jobs available every month, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics touts that 2015 has been, and will continue to be, a prosperous year for the industry. And the buck doesn’t stop there. Industry experts predict a massive increase, with 3.5 million jobs up for grabs within the next ten years.

Mind the gap

Despite the bright outlook, many of our nation’s welders won’t be sipping from the industry’s overflowing cup of opportunity. Out of the estimated 3.5 million jobs that will be available, only 1.5 million are expected to be filled, thus leaving a staggering 2 million jobs by the wayside. With more than 8 million Americans unemployed, the ratio of filled to unfilled jobs is alarming.

Manufacturers nationwide point to an ever-growing “skills gap” as the culprit. For years, manufacturers have reported the unemployability of young welders, citing a gulf-sized difference between the skills employers need and the skills jobseekers actually have. Economist and author Thomas L. Friedman posits that the problem begins with education.

"Out of the estimated 3.5 million jobs that will be available, only 1.5 million are expected to be filled."

A shortage of skills

“Welding is a STEM job,” he states, “that is, a job that requires knowledge of science, technology, engineering, and math.” Long gone are the days of low-skilled welders who perform menial, repetitive tasks all day. To stay competitive and relevant in an increasingly high-tech and global market, today’s manufacturers are calling for innovative welders who can take the industry to the next level. Innovation is driven by STEM, and welders who don’t possess STEM skills will quickly get left behind.

However, the manufacturing industry refuses to idly sit by while America’s infrastructure crumbles. With the annual Manufacturing Day on October 2, workers and manufacturers across the nation are hoping to shed light on the growing problem. The event is meant to foster the industry’s growth by inspiring the next generation of workers, as well as providing manufacturers with a platform on which to discuss industry issues, such as the skilled labor shortage.

The next step

To get to the root of the problem, the American Welding Society has launched the first online educational library geared specifically to the needs of twenty-first century welding students and educators. The library is a voluminous collection of online courses that provide students with over 75 hours of learning. The educational content covers the core skills required to meet the industry’s high standards. With innovative technology and 24/7 access from any device, technology is allowing tech savvy students to learn in their preferred way—anytime, anywhere.

To stay relevant in a field that is constantly molded by technological advancements, welders need to invest in and commit to life-long learning. American journalist Adam Davidson said it best: “If you want to succeed for the coming decades, you don’t just need to be trained and then a few years later retrained. You need a continuous improvement in your education. The main skill you need is the skill to learn more skills.”