Posted on Posted in Industry News

What the Skilled Welder Shortage Means for the US Economy

It’s no secret that there will be some unlucky college graduates searching for work this year only to realize that their degrees are obsolete. However, it’s not for the reason you probably think. As of December 2015, the Bureau of Labor Statistics listed the unemployment rate at 5%; however, college graduates were recorded at only 2.5% unemployment. This sounds like great news, right? Unfortunately, about half of grads will find themselves in positions that don’t require secondary education.

While it may seem that millennials are left to scrounge for low-paying jobs, this really isn’t the case. As of July 2015, there were 5.8 million job openings left unfilled, and many were categorized as skilled labor. So, what’s the deal here?

Since the end of the recession in 2009, skilled labor has been one of the highest occupations in demand. When Marco Rubio said, “we need more welders and less philosophers,” in recent debate, he wasn’t lying. In 1988, there were about 570,000 welders compared to the 360,000 in 2012. Considering the manufacturing industry and others alike have boomed in recent years, this certainly spells trouble. In fact, the American Welding Society estimates a 290,000 job deficit in welders by 2020.

This shortage of workers is primarily due to the large number of welders hitting retirement age. Since this career’s decrease in popularity from the 1980s, many have thought it to be a dead end job. Of course, this couldn’t be further from the truth in today’s economy. A welder may start with a basic knowledge making between $30-$40k a year. However, those that complete further training and gain experience in the field can increase their earnings tremendously. Some welders even earn upwards of $100,000 a year working on a pipeline or even welding underwater.

So, what does this mean for businesses? Unfortunately, it means that that they don’t have the manpower to meet demand causing increased turnaround times and lost revenue. As a result, companies have turned to outsourcing labor or hiking up salaries in order to attract qualified workers. While the shortage affects all manufacturing firms, it’s the little guys that are suffering the most, as they don’t have the capability to make these changes. Overall, we see a reduced chance for innovation, growth, and productivity.

The good news is that this shortage leaves millennials with a great opportunity. There isn’t a shortage in work. There’s a shortage in workers. Rather than spending four to six years in school and selling your soul just to be there, you can complete a trade-specific program in just two years with better potential job security to boot. Not too bad if you ask me.