Recently, my fellow blogger Tim Heston published a post that cited a New York Times article from November about how entry level pay in manufacturing is waning. The article quoted a Boston Consulting Group report that actually questioned the skilled labor crisis: "Trying to hire high-skilled workers at rock-bottom rates is not a skills gap."
Past posts on The Fabricator blog have addressed wages, which appear to vary from region to region and company to company. And, just as Heston noted, welders and fabricators at both ends of the pay scale let us know what they are seeing regarding wages. Such was the case when I posted a link to Heston's blog on The FABRICATOR's Facebook page.
Here's the comment thread that ensued. The comments are unedited, but I'm using initials instead of names.
D.K. – "A person pretty much has to be way up north in camp to be making good coin.”
J.H. – “If that ain't the truth D.K. when a mexican that can't speak English is hired at a dollar less on the hour, than a guy whose bin there 12 years, and is "lead fabricator" It really pisses ya off. I've went out on my own (bin 5 yrs now), doin everything from, ground-up housing construction, too (tomorrow) finishing a ornamental railing in a 2 million dollar home.. You gotta be a "go getter" to make-it. I plan on really puttin a hurtin on my former employers, when the market gets better. gettin my ducks in a row now..”
L.B. – “So not true, D.K.! Hard work and high-end skills get you good money.”
D.K. and L.B. both reside in Canada; J.H. is in West Virginia.
And then there are the comments for an article in the Owatonna (Minn.) People's Press about a welding school that's opening in January. A spokesperson for the program said, "'We're starting it because there is an extreme shortage of welders not only in our area, but across the whole United States. In 2010, the shortage was around 200,000. In 2006, 50,000 welders retired, but only 25,000 entered the workforce.'"
"Huber said welding is a high-paying job that often starts with welders making $45,000 per year when benefits are included."
Among the comments about this article were these from Soitgoes: "$45,000.00 starting pay (with benefits)? You seriously need to share your drugs. I don't know a welder in town that STARTED at that, and I know many who have been doing if for 20+ years who are barely making that. Get your facts straight before touting what the outcome will generate. Additionally, if you follow the job postings, the starting wage is generally posted at a disrespectful $11.00 per hour. Through a temp agency, which means there will be no benefits. Welcome to reality. That's $22K per year, half of what you're marketing as the outcome."
Unconcernedcitizen said: "The further north you go the more the pay increases along the I-35 corridor. Go to Mankato and welders are making a respectable starting wage of around $14-$15 an hour.
"Manufacturing is hurting for qualified welders. This is an entry level welding basics course. No one is going to walk out of that class and right into a $45k job. They still have to prove themselves before an employer is going to pay them well.
"For $500 and a shot at a job, I can't find anything wrong with this program. I do agree with soitgoes that the area wages are a tad off. Metal fab shops have been staying strong throughout the lousy economy and many have actually expanded. There's work.
"BUT, the most important skill needed in any field is reliability and a work ethic. A lot of schleps out there that can weld like crazy and have all the skills to succeed but they just can't seem to get their butts to work. Those skills don't do an employer any good laying around the house all day.
"Good attendance is crucial. So, if you have the basics and show up to work when you're supposed to, you'll look like a rockstar. After that, the sky's the limit for where you go.
"A lot of guys worked the Alaska pipeline in the 70's and retired young and healthy. Think Williston and the Canadian pipeline."
Interesting that there's a common theme between the Facebook comments and those for the People's Press article: Go north, young welder.
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