Thursday, November 12, 2015

More on Welders and Philosophers

Some people say we have a shortage of welders:
“We have a shortage of skills that are needed in the manufacturing sector and the construction sector, because we’ve trained our children that the only way to get a good job is to go to a four-year university,” said David Landon, president of the American Welding Society.

Mr. Landon estimates that the United States currently faces a shortage of more than 200,000 professional welders and that there is, indeed, good money to be made by learning the trade. He claims that a stigma against learning such skills has developed over the years, but that welding is needed in sectors that touch most parts of the economy.
These statistics always irritate me. If there is a shortage of welders, why aren't wages for welders rising? Because they are pretty much stagnant just like everybody else's wages. As to why more people don't aspire to learn trades like this, I already covered that: because American companies treat skilled workers as expendable and lay them off at the drop of a hat. The Times has a different number for average annual wage of a welder than the one I cited before, $40,040, but that is still well under the average wage of a college graduate, and that lower wage comes with constant worry about being laid off or discarded.

When Americans can earn middle class salaries as welders, with some job security, they will start getting trained as welders. As a businessman I know likes to say, "I find that what really motivates people is money."

1 comment:

G. Verloren said...

"These statistics always irritate me. If there is a shortage of welders, why aren't wages for welders rising?"

It's worth noting that the AWS isn't a union or anything like that - they're simply a nonprofit organization that attempts to promote the trade, ostensibly globally, but with a definite emphasis on the USA.

In the eyes of the AWS, there may well be a shortage of American welders. But in the eyes of the industry and the economy, that shortage effectively might not exist if the necessary welders can instead be found in other countries at lower wages.

For anything that doesn't need to be welded locally, I imagine Mexican, Canadian, and even Chinese labor is far more attractive, even with factoring in transportation and shipping of materials. Automotive manufacturing is probably a good indicator of this - anymore many new cars on the US market are typically made in the aforementioned countries, as American plants continue to close down and lay off workers. And it's important to recognize that industrial robotics are continually improving and replacing workers - a development the AWS would have a vested interest in wanting to combat.