The discussion moderator of Strengthening Manufacturing Education: An Experience Summit in late June posed a question that sums up the battle to replenish the ranks of retiring manufacturing workers: “How do we get young people interested in a career in welding?”
The question was focused on welding, primarily because the two-day event in Burr Ridge, Ill., was sponsored by The Lincoln Electric Co. and several attendees were directly involved with welding and industrial technology education, but it definitely could be expanded to include all facets of metal fabricating. The U.S. Department of Labor says that 23 percent of the people employed in U.S. manufacturing are 55 or older, which means a significant chunk of the manufacturing workforce is seriously thinking about retirement. Getting new blood into the industry is a primary concern for many in the industry.
The discussion that followed the moderator’s question focused on several points, including recruiting students who might be interested in making money without the need of a traditional four-year college degree; stressing that welding can act as the foundation for an exciting manufacturing career, whether it is as a job shop owner or a certified welding educator; and positioning welding as a modern career with advanced tools and monitoring equipment, not the dark and boring career of 50 years ago. While those suggestions are being enacted sporadically in school districts and towns all over the U.S. , others have taken formal—and successful—steps toward changing the way that young people look at welding. They shared their successes during the educational summit. (more...)