Home Admissions Catalog Financial Aid Schedules Distance Learning

. Local program could help relieve strain of national welder shortage

According to figures released by the American Welding Society (AWS), the country is now enduring a welder shortage that will intensify for years to come. By 2010, it is estimated that there will be a welder shortage around 200,000.  

The Halifax Community College (HCC) Welding Technology program is attempting to fill some of those vacancies with skilled, certified welders. As HCC Welding Department Head/Instructor Jason Shotwell recently explained, power plants, infrastructure and construction projects all need welders. Due to retirements and not having enough younger people to fill those vacancies, welders are in short supply. As a result, all types of projects, from pipelines to skyscrapers to propane/natural gas line projects will progress slowly and much of the infrastructure that is needed may not be created.

Shotwell is also seeing a shortage on the local level. Construction agencies are having difficulty finding good, certified welders. Steel mills, paper mills and production shops have an adequate number of welders for the time being, but as he explained, once retirees start to go out, those organizations may see a shortage.

Since the majority of the objects on Earth are made of metal and most things break, said Shotwell, welders are needed. “You just can’t put a bolt in it sometimes and it will hold. You have to put a weld on it. If you want certain codes and standards, you need welders,” he continued.

Currently, there are day and evening welding programs available at HCC. Also, there are several students enrolled in the high school Huskins welding class, which started last fall.

While in class, students learn how to fabricate, cut steel, weld aluminum, carbon steel and stainless, plasma cut and much more. Graduates are able to go out and work as a cutter, welder, fabricator, blueprint reader, and depending on skill level and prior work experience, a foreman.

The welding program has an 80% job placement rate and graduates can make anywhere from $10-18 per hour for production work; $18-28 per hour for construction jobs. Those who work on emergency shutdowns can make more plus $150 per diem each day while traveling. “There is large demand for welders and you can make lots of money,” Shotwell added.

Some have suggested that using robots could be a possible solution for the shortage. To that, Shotwell responded that robots can do some things, but not all. “You won’t find a robot on the top of a skyscraper,” he added.

Jason Shotwell

Photo: HCC Welding Department Head/Instructor Jason Shotwell