Kingman, Arizona - Welding jobs from coast to coast are being posted daily on the American Welding Society’s website while community colleges nationwide work to fill the expected job demands.
Mohave Community College’s Welding Technology Program Director Buddy May knows the industry pays its workers well, especially if they are willing to travel, so May has worked diligently to overhaul MCC’s program to meet national training expectations. The American Welding Society’s (AWS) Schools Excelling through National Skill Standards Education (SENSE) Level I and the National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER) Level I and II curriculums are now incorporated into MCC’s welding program.
“We’re no longer a traditional welding program,” May said. “What we are doing is not only training people for local needs, but also for national needs. Our new curriculum is in line with the American Welding Society’s expectations. Employers want AWS-certified welders and our students are better prepared to take and to pass written and performance testing with our updated curriculum.
“The AWS welding certifications are what you want to earn because they are globally recognized,” May continued. “Of 10 recent graduates, all 10 who applied for a welding job, landed a welding job.”
The growing student interest in MCC’s welding program is following the growing number of welding jobs nationwide. In the past six years, welding enrollment at MCC has increased more than 200 percent, according to May. The average welder makes around $18 an hour, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Cindy Weihl, a spokeswoman with AWS, said they estimate the nation will need nearly 240,000 new and replacement welders by 2019.
“The average welder is 55 years old and they are retiring at twice the speed that new welders are coming into the workforce,” she said. “There are many growing industries, such as nuclear, gas and oil that are constantly hiring. In Virginia, Pennsylvania, they can’t find enough welders there for all of the work they have; Nebraska has a pipeline that is also picking up steam and needs welders.”
Current and former MCC students said they are feeling the positive impacts of choosing the new career.
Jeremy Sterling, a 28-year-old Kingman resident, said he turned to MCC’s welding program after his employment in road construction began to stagger along with the economy.
“Welding was always something I wanted to learn how to do. I figured it would be a good time to make a career out of it and after some research, most welders right now are of retirement age. I’m a hands-on kind of guy, I like to work outside, that’s what drove me to start working in the welding program,” Sterling said. “I’m loving it. In the short time I’ve been in the program, I’ve learned a lot. I went in knowing nothing and now I’m close to my Level I certificate. I feel like I’m accomplishing something great. A couple of former welding students have come back to visit and they are making really good money.”
Frankie Rivera, a 29-year-old Lake Havasu City resident, said he wanted to add to his nine years of construction experience.
“Welding goes hand-in-hand with pipe fitting,” he said. “I need to be on top of the food chain and welding is where it’s at. I could probably go and get a welding job now, but I’m choosing to stay and continue my education.”
Victor Salas, also a 43-year-old Lake Havasu City resident, said his education has helped him with job searches. He was the only applicant out of 700 who was awarded a welding job with a major mining company in Colorado, according to May.
“It’s been great,” he said. “The welding program is a really good program. I had never welded before in my life, but Buddy made me open my eyes to what’s actually happening during the process instead of just showing me how to do it. I recently had to take a welding test for a company and without my education, I would have been intimidated. But I welded for my interviewer and he was impressed and that right there was a big confidence booster.”