Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Welding -- Beyond the Sparks and the Arc

What do skyscrapers, automobiles, rockets, and ships have in common? In all likelihood, they have all been welded. According to the American Welding Society, an estimated 50 percent of the United States gross national product is affected by welding.

The birth of welding can be traced back to the Bronze Age more than 5,000 years ago. The vocation has undergone a lot of changes since its advent, especially during  the last 100 years. New welding processes and technological developments have increased the range of materials and components that can be welded, as well as the quality and productivity of welders.

Most welding done today falls into one of two categories: arc welding (the use of an electrical arc to melt the work materials) and torch welding (the use of an oxyacetylene torch to melt the working material and welding rod). Welders, cutters, solderers, and brazers may work indoors or outdoors – sometimes in bad weather or in a confined area – and occasionally work at high elevations. Safety procedures are important for workers to follow due to frequent exposure to hazardous conditions.

Welding is one of the few career choices that seems to be in high demand at all times. This is because welders are needed in almost every industry. Current Oregon hourly wages vary from $12.63 for entry-level positions to $23.87 for experienced welders.

Training for this occupation varies broadly from a few weeks of schooling or on-the-job training to several years of combined schooling and on-the-job training. No statewide license is required for welding, cutting, soldering, and brazing workers in Oregon although welders who work on particular projects such as bridges, boilers, and other more specialized jobs do have special licensing and certification requirements.

Oregon’s welders and solderers work in many types of industries but the majority of workers (78%) are concentrated in manufacturing industries. Three manufacturing sub-sectors provided the lions’ share of jobs in manufacturing (see graph).

In 2010, there were more than 337,000 welders in the nation and more than 4,000 in Oregon. Employment growth is expected to be higher than average for this occupation through the year 2020. Expected growth in the defense industry along with future demand for repair of the nation’s aging infrastructure will continue to contribute to the high demand for workers in this occupation.

For more information, check out the full article written by workforce analyst Lynn Wallis.

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