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  • We want you: the welding industry’s message to women
  • With an increasing number of older workers retiring and fewer young workers entering the field, the welding industry is facing a shortage of skilled workers。 The American Welding Society thinks women can help fill the gap。
    Lisa Moran, 32, was a welder for about five years before she started teaching the skill at various local colleges。 She's currently teaching the skill at South Suburban Community College。 

    “A lot of people think that this trade will be easy to learn, then easy to get a job,” said Moran, whose students include three women。 “The good news is this: The best part about welding is that anyone, from any background, can learn to weld。”

    According to the welding society, the industry will need 111,000 new welders in the next five years。 A search on jobsinwelding。com will yield nearly 400 welding-related jobs in areas all over the country。 The U。S。 Department of Labor projects approximately a 15 percent increase in welding jobs by 2020。 

    Many of the jobs listed on jobsinwelding.com are for teachers at community colleges, which are becoming key recruiting sources as the industry seeks to fill welding positions across the U.S. 

    “Since there's a shortage of skilled workers and the pay is good, welding is a marvelous opportunity for young women,” said Nancy Cole, former president of the American Welding Society.

    The welding industry is not only focusing on recruiting women. But there has been an increase in the number of women in welding jobs, experts say. That’s especially true for women who have lost their jobs and are choosing to be e retrained in areas where jobs are plentiful. 
    In 2012, there were 357,400 welders in the U.S., of which only 2 percent were women, according to the Department of Labor.

    About 45 percent of U。S。 welders are in their 50s or older, with an average age of 54, according to Monica Pfarr, corporate director of workforce development at the American Welding Society。 Pfarr—a recent recipient of the Women in Manufacturing’s Science, Technology, Engineering and Production Award—works to address the critical need for recruiting and retaining welders。

    In New York, Steamfitters Local 638 has more than 8,000 members who work on city buildings。 They are highly skilled and highly trained men and women who build and maintain the buildings’ heating, cooling and fire suppression systems。 Welding is only one aspect of a Steamfitters’ job。 Workers are expected to solder and braze, said spokesman Tom Butler。

    “The union members go through a rigorous five-year apprentice program with both classroom instruction and field work,” said Butler。

    “Among our members we have some amazing woman in the industry, some of whom are third- or fourth-generation of ‘fitter’ in their family。 … We have single moms, who walked away from other careers (like on Wall Street) to enter this field。”

    Local 638 member Janet Powers, 47, is a second-generation steamfitter who has been in the welding industry since she was 20. 

    “When I first started in the late 1980’s there were only a handful of women working beside me,” Powers said。 “Today, the industry looks completely different with a flood of younger women who have joined our ranks。

    “While steam-fitting is still very much a male dominated profession, women have definitely increased their presence over the past 27 years,” she said。

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