Welders do the work that holds our world together. From airplanes to medical devices, many of the products we rely on in our modern economy use components that are welded together, either manually or robotically. And that is not likely to change anytime soon.
In fact, the American Welding Society (AWS) says the U.S. will need 372,664 welding professionals by 2026—and we could be facing a shortage of more than 200,000 skilled welding professionals by 2020. While many young people are under the impression that opportunities in manufacturing are declining, AWS says that advanced manufacturing methods have actually increased the demand for welders. At the same time, the skills needed by welding professionals are more complex.
So how can we ensure that enough young talent is entering the industry over the next few years? As an industry, we need to do a better job of creating awareness of the opportunities among young people and nurturing young talent. Participating in career days for middle and high school students, offering mentorship and scholarship opportunities, and building connections with local technical and vocational schools can go a long way towards building the talent pipeline.
But while we do all that, it's also important to listen to what skilled workers tell us attracts them to a workplace. Among the top considerations? A clean, healthy environment.
Today's skilled manufacturing workers, and the younger cohort coming up behind them, are more aware of the dangers of weld fumes and less willing to work in an environment that is dangerous, unhealthy, or uncomfortable. A clean, comfortable workplace can be an important recruiting tool for both individual manufacturers and for the industry as a whole.
That starts with effective weld fume containment and collection. A good dust collection system will protect welders by keeping toxic fumes out of the breathing zone. It also keeps the entire workplace cleaner by pulling particulates out of the air before they can settle onto floors and surfaces.
While most manufacturers meet current OSHA regulations for weld fumes, many companies are now striving to meet more stringent air quality recommendations set by the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH). Better air quality is linked to higher productivity, better morale, reduced absenteeism, improved worker health, lower turnover rates and more successful recruiting of highly skilled workers. Increasingly, this makes air quality a competitive advantage for forward-thinking companies.
So show your welders how much you appreciate them this month by making an investment in their health and comfort. If your workplace already meets ACGIH recommendations, you're ahead of the game. But if the air in your facility is visibly dirty or uncomfortable to breathe, it may be time for an evaluation of your air quality systems. A breath of fresh air could breathe new life into your retention and recruiting efforts.
Celebrate National Welding Month with a few stickers from RoboVent. Slap these on welding masks, hoods, tool chests or anywhere else you’d like. Order some today for yourself or your favorite welder and we’ll send them out to you at no cost.