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Why High School Welding Programs Are A Great Investment
With a great shortage of skilled labor, some high schools are taking action to train highly skilled blue collar workers in fields such as welding. We explore such programs.
Why High School Welding Programs Are a Great Investment
The stats on American high schools are staggering: three in ten students say they are bored because they don't get to interact with their teachers, while three in four students say course material is not interesting. Meanwhile, standardized tests are proliferating, scores are falling, and there is a dire shortage of skilled labor in the workforce as companies desperately try to fill such jobs in fields like welding. Some schools have taken action. Whether in traditional high schools or in career and technology centers, skilled labor professions are being taught directly to high school students.
Skilled Labor Shortage
A recent article in one of our local newspapers reported that at Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology in Lancaster, PA, which equips students for professions in fields like welding, HVAC, metals fabrication, and machine tools and heating, more than 800 companies that have more than 2000 positions compete for just 350 graduates. That's why Thaddeus Stevens is expanding its programs in those fields, including welding. By 2024, the American Welding Society predicts a shortage of some 400,000 welders. Some people stigmatize vocational education, but it is just that type of education that will help revitalize the American manufacturing industry.
Welding for High School Students
At the high school level, some welding programs are having success. In Nebraska, for example, 60 students enrolled in a welding program that streamlines the curriculum to help give students directly employable skills. A teacher in the Nebraska program said, "Hopefully this will create an influx of welders for factories here in town. [Students] already know what it is like, so they won’t be surprised about how dirty it is. With a severe shortage of welders in the area, this is going to help out." Such programs can be replicated at high schools and career and technology centers across the country.
Are High School Welding Programs Worth the Investment?
Admittedly, it can be more expensive to fund a welding class than an English class. Welding safety equipment and other tools can cost more -- at least at the outset -- than a set of textbooks. That said, when high school students for whom traditional college is not the best option can come out of high school career ready for a skilled labor job that pays far better than, for example, unskilled service industry workers. In turn, these students will have disposable income to spend that can stimulate a local economy. In other words, investing in welding programs (and other similar career training programs) is really investing in the local economy. In some cases, states, municipalities, and even public-private partnerships have helped defray the start-up costs for welding programs. These are smart investments.
Welding is a high-skill, high-excitement, high-energy profession that requires qualified individuals to literally bind our society together through flaming sparks and specialized equipment. It pays more than many jobs that require college degrees, and people can begin working as soon as they complete a certification, which can take place beginning in high school. It's time for schools to make a commitment to making sure our young people are prepared to compete in the economy of today and tomorrow.