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Skilled Manual Labor Critical To US STEM Dominance 367

Posted by Soulskill
from the jobs-that-make-the-world-go-'round dept.
Doofus writes: "The Wall Street Journal has an eye-catching headline: Welders Make $150,000? Bring Back Shop Class. Quoting: 'According to the 2011 Skills Gap Survey by the Manufacturing Institute, about 600,000 manufacturing jobs are unfilled nationally because employers can't find qualified workers. To help produce a new generation of welders, pipe-fitters, electricians, carpenters, machinists and other skilled tradesmen, high schools should introduce students to the pleasure and pride they can take in making and building things in shop class. American employers are so yearning to motivate young people to work in manufacturing and the skilled trades that many are willing to pay to train and recruit future laborers. CEO Karen Wright of Ariel Corp. in Mount Vernon, Ohio, recently announced that the manufacturer of gas compressors is donating $1 million to the Knox County Career Center to update the center's computer-integrated manufacturing equipment, so students can train on the same machines used in Ariel's operations.' How many of us liked shop? How many young people should be training for skilled manufacturing and service jobs rather than getting history or political science degrees?"
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Skilled Manual Labor Critical To US STEM Dominance

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  • LOL ... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gstoddart (321705) on Wednesday April 23, 2014 @02:42PM (#46826777) Homepage

    How many young people should be training for skilled manufacturing and service jobs rather than getting history or political science degrees?

    As many as possible. I've said for years the real money lies in being a welder, plumber, or an electrician.

    All those people who have exhaustively studied the post modernism and sexism as exemplified by 17th century Gaelic poets with no left hand but who hadn't gone bald yet ... not so much. Because, as far as marketable skills go, some courses of study aren't exactly marketable at all.

    • Re:LOL ... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 23, 2014 @02:59PM (#46826977)

      All those people who have exhaustively studied the post modernism and sexism as exemplified by 17th century Gaelic poets with no left hand but who hadn't gone bald yet ... not so much.

      Meh, it depends what one wants out of life. I chose to study a humanities field at university and now work in academia. As a researcher, my income is squarely lower middle class, but so what. The job pay me enough to get by and indulge in the occasional luxury, and I have plenty of time to travel or pursue other interest. I don't plan on having children, I am fine with renting a flat instead of owning my own house, I live in a country where there is no need to own a car, and I can look forward to a small but sufficient pension.

      The high-salary "American dream" that some Yanks here on Slashdot seem to think the goal of human existence has very little appeal for me. Sure, it is loads of money, but it also means long working hours, where telecommuting isn't usually an option. It involves sinking that money into things like a house which tie one down and suck further time and money from you when maintenance has to be done.

      Those who mock studying comparatively unlucrative subjects fail to understand that there are many types of people in the world.

      • Re:LOL ... (Score:4, Insightful)

        by plopez (54068) on Wednesday April 23, 2014 @03:39PM (#46827435) Journal

        "where telecommuting isn't usually an option"

        Telcommuting implies your job can be offshored. A welder working on bridges in the US cannot have his/her job sent off shore.

        • Re:LOL ... (Score:5, Interesting)

          by CRCulver (715279) <crculver@christopherculver.com> on Wednesday April 23, 2014 @03:43PM (#46827471) Homepage
          Telecommuting also implies that you can do your own job offshore, in another part of the world with lower cost of living. There are a lot of companies who would be quick to hire someone who demands a somewhat lower salary because he has relocated to e.g. a beach in Southeast Asia or a mountain town in Morocco, but is from the same cultural background as the people at the firm and speaks the same language. I know, I work like that.
          • by Grishnakh (216268)

            Why the hell would you want to relocate to some 3rd-world shithole where you have to worry about K&R (no, not the Unix guys)?

            Go look at the quality-of-living indices, and the countries which dominate them. They're not 3rd-world countries with low costs-of-living. If you want to live someplace where it's extremely safe, the government isn't corrupt, there's good public services (public transit, healthcare, etc.), it's going to cost you. If you have a medical emergency in a mountain town in Morocco, yo

            • by CRCulver (715279)

              Go look at the quality-of-living indices, and the countries which dominate them.

              Those indices are usually based on life for the average local, not expats making much more money.

              If you have a medical emergency in a mountain town in Morocco, you're probably not going to survive.

              By that logic people from Europe or North America should just stay home all the time, because you might get dangerously ill in a remote area while on holiday and die, right? Really, if one fell ill in the particular town in Morocco

              • by aaarrrgggh (9205)

                I challenge anyone to find a US hospital in their health plan that can do a better job than Bumrungrad Hospital in Bangkok.

    • by lgw (121541)

      Yup, the skilled trades are the future. Unskilled and low-skilled jobs are vanishing. Manufacturing doesn't require humans any more. But not everyone can be an engineer or artist (or an electrician for that matter, but that's kind of a special case, like an airline pilot, of needing the "memorize 1000 pages of rules" skill), and we have a real shortage of skilled blue-collar workers.

      Either college needs to be focused on teaching stuff that leads to an actual job, or we need to end the "everyone should go

      • Re:LOL ... (Score:4, Interesting)

        by rolfwind (528248) on Wednesday April 23, 2014 @03:11PM (#46827125)

        I heard that airline pilots are getting paid shit now unless you're in a big plane:
        http://blogs.wsj.com/middlesea... [wsj.com]

        • by Nidi62 (1525137)

          I heard that airline pilots are getting paid shit now unless you're in a big plane:

          Brand new pilots, fresh out of flight school, make about $20k a year and will more than likely start at a regional airline. After 5 years or so they can get on with a major airline and see double that. Now, if a pilot starts out in the military (where they don't have to pay for flight school), they can pretty much get on with a major airline as soon as they retire, making pretty good money.

          • by CRCulver (715279)

            Now, if a pilot starts out in the military (where they don't have to pay for flight school)

            Unless things have changed since I was in, only officers* fly in the military, and in order to be an officer, you need a university degree. That means taking on student debt and being tied down for at least the length of a commission, so if you just want to fly for a living, it would make more sense to just go straight to flight school instead of considering the military a path to riches.

            (* Or warrant officers, but t

            • Re:LOL ... (Score:4, Informative)

              by edremy (36408) on Wednesday April 23, 2014 @03:43PM (#46827473) Journal

              Now, if a pilot starts out in the military (where they don't have to pay for flight school)

              Unless things have changed since I was in, only officers* fly in the military, and in order to be an officer, you need a university degree. That means taking on student debt and being tied down for at least the length of a commission, so if you just want to fly for a living, it would make more sense to just go straight to flight school instead of considering the military a path to riches.

              (* Or warrant officers, but that also requires considerable experience behind you as an enlisted man. You don't just start off flying.)

              Except if you go to the Air Force Academy, where it's free. Or join ROTC at a school and get your tuition picked up. Either way you can get out of college for waaay less than someone who doesn't join up

        • by Trepidity (597)

          It's also quite expensive to get licensed unless you come into commercial aviation from the Air Force, because of the training and flight-hours requirements. Total cost for equipment, flight time, instruction, certifications, etc. ends up being in the $30k-$50k range, and that expenditure only qualifies you for a regional-carrier job where you make the equivalent of $12-15/hr. It's not clear that's actually a better investment of tuition money than a 4-year state college degree would be.

        • by lgw (121541)

          My brother is a pilot. No one coming in today is going to make crazy money, as that system will be gone by the time they're 50. But it pays a respectable salary past your first couple of years - better than e.g. a bus driver working for the city. Flying your own plane is really easy to learn, but for commercial flight few can manage the really high mountain of arbitrary regs you have to memorize, so supply is constrained (commercial non-airline pilots are a middle ground).

      • by geekoid (135745)

        Nope.
        College is about an education, not 'job'. The only problem is people are under the delusion that any degree will pay 6 figures and then get an easy degree.
        Afterwords they are shocked, Shocked I tell you, that someone who spent 4 year learning music means they get to be a barrista.

        It's fine to get a music degree, just don't whine when you have no plan on applying it.

        Having a liberally educated populace is good for everyone.
        well, cost is an issue to, but I'm a democratic socialist, so I think education s

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Not that I don't disagree with the pursuit of liberal arts degrees for actual real dollars, but these headlines are just a way of cutting wages.

      " is making , there is a shortage of ."

      Other x's in the past year: "Computer Scientists/Programmers", "Nurses", etc. Yet if you're really inside on the profession you realize there is actually quite a lot of unemployment in those areas, frequent layoffs, seasonal or sporadic openings, unpaid relo required and the salary quoted is for the highest, most senior, manage

    • by Virtucon (127420)

      Marketing, Lawyers.. all useless.

      • by HiThere (15173)

        In a just society lawyers would have an honorable place. That, of course, doesn't say much about the ones currently existing.

        Actually, even advertising has a worthwhile place in a society. Their place is ensuring that accurate information about what is being sold is available. Somehow that doesn't match what the job currently entails...except sometimes.

    • Re:LOL ... (Score:4, Informative)

      by timeOday (582209) on Wednesday April 23, 2014 @03:20PM (#46827233)

      As many as possible. I've said for years the real money lies in being a welder, plumber, or an electrician.

      But have you tried backing it up with any facts? People keep repeating it, but the statistics keep insisting otherwise [bls.gov]. You can point to an anecdote about a welder who made $150K in a year. The trouble is showing that large numbers of young people could all become welders who make $150K per year. On average, welders make $32,000 per year [indeed.com]. And that's among welders who actually hold a job as a welder.

    • Re:LOL ... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Charliemopps (1157495) on Wednesday April 23, 2014 @03:27PM (#46827325)

      I was a licensed welder for 10 years. It doesn't pay that well.

      It's kind of like getting your CCNA. It doesn't pay well unless you get into one of the specialties. That $300k per year is what you get if you're welding under water or on a sky scraper. You really have to know what you're doing. Know what materials you're welding, use the exact right gas mix, have $50k worth of equipment, have all your welds Xrayed and inspected. I'm really good at welding and the few times I'm had my welds Xrayed has been pretty shaming. Those $300k dudes are earning their keep.

      I actually think this article is demeaning to those in the trade fields. It would be like comparing your local ISP's helpdesk guy to one of Googles top developers. Just because it involves "welding" doesn't mean it's even remotely the same job.

      • Re:LOL ... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 23, 2014 @04:12PM (#46827717)

        It just occurred to me that I think of welding the same way people think of tech workers.

        Welding is welding, two pieces of metal welded together, how hard could it be?

        Coding is coding, type some instructions and the computer does it, how hard could it be?

    • Re:LOL ... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by AthanasiusKircher (1333179) on Wednesday April 23, 2014 @03:47PM (#46827503)

      How many young people should be training for skilled manufacturing and service jobs rather than getting history or political science degrees?

      As many as possible.

      Frankly, as a fan of the humanities, I find the summary and this sort of response to be offensive. It presumes that the only people who get humanities degrees are those without the ability to do science or engineering. As someone who works in a field full of people who clearly have the aptitude to do STEM fields, but choose humanities pursuits instead, I can say this is definitely not true.

      Don't pick on the history or political science degrees. Those -- along with English lit, classics, philosophy, etc. -- tended historically to produce lots of intelligent people with critical thinking skills. If I were looking to fill a random position in an area that didn't require STEM background, I'd much rather find someone with a history or political science degree than someone with a "business" degree. The business degree is where the real "dregs" of college often end up, who probably would be better off doing some sort of skilled labor or something. (Not saying that there aren't smart business majors, but percentage-wise, I'd say it's much more likely to find people there without any specific passion for learning, unlike those who end up in history or whatever.)

      All those people who have exhaustively studied the post modernism and sexism as exemplified by 17th century Gaelic poets with no left hand but who hadn't gone bald yet ... not so much. Because, as far as marketable skills go, some courses of study aren't exactly marketable at all.

      Meh. This is an increasing problem in some humaniies departments that have been effectively converted into sociology departments, rather than history or literature or whatever. But someone trained in serious critical thinking about evaluating historical sources? Again, I'd definitely take that person over a similarly-qualified "business major" any day of the week... and if you wouldn't, perhaps you should talk to more historians.

      For people without the aptitude or interest to spend a lot of time with math or science, but have good other qualities (e.g., interpersonal skills, management skills, good work ethic, critical thinking skills outside math -- yes those people do exist), I'd like to see their brains honed by some doing some work that requires intensive study, problem-solving, and critical thinking in an area that excites and interests them.

      Personally, I think a lot of people shouldn't be encouraged to go to college who now are. Most people don't have the aptitude, interest, or skills to succeed in a traditional liberal arts curriculum. But the people who do don't usually end up choosing a history or polysci major because they're the dumbest ones at college.

      • by gstoddart (321705)

        Frankly, as a fan of the humanities, I find the summary and this sort of response to be offensive.

        That's OK. You're allowed.

        If I were looking to fill a random position in an area that didn't require STEM background, I'd much rather find someone with a history or political science degree than someone with a "business" degree.

        These are my only options? At a certain point, if you need someone who has proven critical thinking skills, you need some way for them to prove it to you. If this "random position" r

        • But the people who do don't usually end up choosing a history or polysci major because they're the dumbest ones at college.

          Wait, what? When I say it or the summary says it, it's deeply offensive. And then you close out your post by saying the exact same thing as I did?

          I suggest you learn some critical reading skills. The sentence you quoted does not mean what you think it does. "Person A does not end up choosing X because they are dumb" does NOT necessary imply that person A is dumb. Instead, it could imply that person A is NOT dumb, and therefore chooses X rather than Y (i.e., if person A were dumb, they'd have chosen Y).

          Sheesh. You want to get offended that I dare post an alternate view on Slashdot about the necessity of humanities degrees, and then you fail logi

    • by geekoid (135745)

      "getting history or political science degrees?"
      funny how the article says STEM, but when people need to find examples no one uses a STEM career as an example.

      " I've said for years the real money lies in being a welder, plumber, or an electrician.
      nope. facts do not bare that out at all.

      average incomes:
      welder - 32K
      plumber - 26k
      electrician - 39K
      software - 71k
      software engineer - 90k
      electrical engineer - 83k
      civil engineer - 78k
      social scientist - 86k

      • by evilviper (135110)

        How do I get a job as a "software"?

        71k sounds like good money for becoming an incorporeal abstract concept.

    • Re:LOL ... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by quarterbuck (1268694) on Wednesday April 23, 2014 @06:09PM (#46828623)
      The Wall Street Journal article is wrong. There is no state in the US where even the top quartile of the welders earn anywhere near $150,000. You can look it up on DoL website [bls.gov] .
      The author is using anecdotes for evidence and appealing to commonly held assumptions (like yours) for theory.
    • by kwbauer (1677400)

      But Obama is working hard on that with his latest "Equal Pay" proposal. Since a 4-year college degree is a 4-year college degree, there is obviously discrimination happening if somebody that got a 4-year degree is making less than someone else who got a different 4-year degree and we need a law to fix that.

  • by B33rNinj4 (666756) on Wednesday April 23, 2014 @02:44PM (#46826795) Homepage Journal
    If someone really wants to go to college, and major in history, they should still do that. Having a passion or interest in something, even if it might not pay all the bills, isn't a bad thing. That being said, if someone is languishing in college or still on the fence about going, picking up a trade can be a tremendous benefit. They might not stick with it over the years, but it gives them something solid to fall back on.
  • by litehacksaur111 (2895607) on Wednesday April 23, 2014 @02:45PM (#46826819)
    Where the hell are welders making 150k??? Probably like 5% of welders make that much. Most of the manual labor jobs (electrician, plumber, HVAC) make like 60k with 10 years of experience. New people start around 30k.
    • by Sir_Eptishous (873977) on Wednesday April 23, 2014 @02:47PM (#46826849) Homepage

      Where the hell are welders making 150k???

      Underwater.

    • by clovis (4684) on Wednesday April 23, 2014 @02:50PM (#46826877)

      From the article:
      A good trade to consider: welding. I recently visited Pioneer Pipe in the Utica and Marcellus shale area of Ohio and learned that last year the company paid 60 of its welders more than $150,000 and two of its welders over $200,000. The owner, Dave Archer, said he has had to turn down orders because he can't find enough skilled welders.

      So, the answer to your question is: "Pioneer Pipe in the Utica and Marcellus shale area of Ohio"

      • Ok. I can say that professional baseball players make $20 million dollars. I think you are choosing the most elite of a profession and trying to use that as an average for the common entry level person. I stand by my comment that maybe 5% of welders are making 150k. The rest are not making anywhere near close.
      • by Collective 0-0009 (1294662) on Wednesday April 23, 2014 @03:00PM (#46826993)

        From the article: A good trade to consider: welding. I recently visited Pioneer Pipe in the Utica and Marcellus shale area of Ohio and learned that last year the company paid 60 of its welders more than $150,000 and two of its welders over $200,000. The owner, Dave Archer, said he has had to turn down orders because he can't find enough skilled welders.

        So, the answer to your question is: "Pioneer Pipe in the Utica and Marcellus shale area of Ohio"

        I can't read the article, so I'll take your word on it. But if that is the case, this guy at Pioneer is an idiot. We paid welders between $30k - $40k. There is a whole metric ton of welders in the south that would take $200k and be up there in about 16 hours.

        Sorry, but I just can't buy into this. There is something more to it. You don't pay 3-4 times the going rate of an employee. If you do, you suck at business.

        Are these "Master Welders" that know the intricacies of the difference of sine and square waves and know the metallurgical properties that are affected by using each? Can they weld on any damn material in the known world?

        Hey, welders in Ohio, when you are done cruising in the Tesla and reviewing your massive investment accounts, can you hop on /. and tell us why you make as much or more than 99% of American and why you do but the welder in Alabama gets $40k + overtime?

        • by danbert8 (1024253) on Wednesday April 23, 2014 @03:08PM (#46827093)

          Is that welder working in an oil field? There are a HUGE number of extra qualifications and certifications you need to be a pipe or tank welder. I speak from project management experience that these guys get paid very well and it is hard to find enough good ones.

        • by zarthrag (650912) on Wednesday April 23, 2014 @03:09PM (#46827107)

          There's probably some consideration to the *type* of welding and the conditions you must do it in. Tig Welding [wikipedia.org] requires *considerably* more skill/experience/mastery than simple brazing and stick welding. There's the added bonus that if you do it wrong, you DIE. In which case, such welders can command a premium for their skills - as they should.

      • by snoig (535665) on Wednesday April 23, 2014 @03:02PM (#46827013)

        From the article: A good trade to consider: welding. I recently visited Pioneer Pipe in the Utica and Marcellus shale area of Ohio and learned that last year the company paid 60 of its welders more than $150,000 and two of its welders over $200,000. The owner, Dave Archer, said he has had to turn down orders because he can't find enough skilled welders.

        So in reality what you have are some welders putting in long hours in the oil fields and probably working 70 to 80 hours a week so they are getting paid lots of overtime. In the real world, that doesn't sound so good. It's no wonder Pioneer Pipe can't find people to fill positions.

      • by LWATCDR (28044)

        Welders make good money in oil and gas fields but a good welder can make money in a lot of other industries as well.

    • 150k wouldn't surprise me at all, especially with construction and UAW union workers. Some manual laborers in this country make much more than that.

      I recall one of the new trucks being built on an aluminum frame? I think that requires tig welding which is extremely difficult and very few have mastered the skill. Very precise welding is also extremely important in large steel works projects like bridges and condo/office towers.

    • by nblender (741424)

      I beg to differ. I plumbed my entire house myself but had to call an actual plumber for some permit specific stuff. The guy I called was a junior plumber and he charged me $70/hr. He was the only one I could find who wasn't swamped, working 60hour weeks. He was also cheaper than the 60hr/week guys who quoted me $90+/hr. Starting to look like embedded firmware isn't the dream job after all.. At least I can bite my nails.

      The junior guy who came out to do my hookup looked at the rest of the plumbing and s

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      For real. There was piece in the local paper along these lines where they quoted a large firm in my area how they had skilled trade jobs at great pay for people with "math" skills where they would provide the training. "We just can't find people with the math skills to fill these positions". I gave them a call and we talked about my qualifications (calculus and linear algebra), and they told me that they had a position starting at 30k, I could make it up to 35k in three years!

      I'm doing significantly better

    • by zarmanto (884704)
      My thoughts, exactly. Crud, I still don't make that kind of scratch, and I'm a Senior Software Engineer who is rapidly approaching 40! Frankly, I'd switch to welding in a heartbeat (and probably lower my heartrate considerably) if I could actually get a raise in the process.
    • by dbraden (214956)

      A buddy of mine was making more than that as a pipe welder. It's also very helpful if you're willing to travel.

    • Welders certified in welding to certain specifications can easily make this much, particularly if they own/run their own shop. Not common, certainly, but someone with their own equipment who can go onsite to a wellhead, oil platform, or nuclear reactor and make certified repairs on demand can pretty much quote their own fee. Welding certifications are very specialized, being able to TIG 1/4" stainless doesn't qualify you for 1/2" stainless, or 1/4" aluminum, etc. As a hobbyist, I find welding to be fun, but
  • by RichMan (8097) on Wednesday April 23, 2014 @02:47PM (#46826837)

    Until the dangers of sitting at a desk get raised up a few more levels the spectre of injuries in shop class has pretty much banished the once wonderful hands on practical skills from the ciriculum.

    The lessons of the table saw and possibility of losing fingers or getting a 2x4 in the gut were taught to me in grade 8. I can't imagine the number of permission slips needed to allow such adventures in our modern school system. Also given the lack of funding currently in our systems the need for shop equipment, supplies, trained teachers and insurance is a financial burden I can't see the system taking on.

    Certainly there are pockets were it could but done but but it would take several revolutions in funding, responsibilty and trust before it could be implemented on a wide scale.

    • by Xoltri (1052470)
      I remember in my grade 8 shop class, we were allowed to use a small forge to melt lead (that we could purchase for $10 for a block of it) to then make small army men. It was pretty cool, but I can't believe they let us play with molten lead and then lead toys!
    • by MozeeToby (1163751) on Wednesday April 23, 2014 @03:07PM (#46827083)

      Move to the country, I had shop in high school available all the way from woodworking and drafting to metal working to engine repair. Granted, that was about 10 years ago, but so far as I know the classes are still offered (they were quite popular when I was there).

  • by kruach aum (1934852) on Wednesday April 23, 2014 @02:48PM (#46826857)

    Not everyone needs a college degree. In fact, most people don't need a college degree. What people need is stability and job security, and the "college degree == stability" heuristic is easy to learn but apparently hard to unlearn. If the only reason you're in college is "but I gotta get a degree, man" and you can't think of a reason why, drop what you're doing and go weld shit. I'm not even kidding. You'll make more money and have far better prospects than most other people in your position.

    • The tricky bit is that 'stability and job security' are apparently bad for shareholder value or something, so people hunting it are racing against (generally successful) attempts to crush it like a bug and bring in the temps and subcontractors and offshore peons and whatever else seems handy.

      This doesn't make their dumb plan any less dumb; but the number of good plans that they passed up to chose that dumb plan is something we are actively whittling away at.
    • Hell, I have a college degree in shop class for all the good its doing me. Unless your willing to get up and move to were the jobs are, a degree means nothing.
    • by mlts (1038732)

      +1

      There are many jobs that don't need a college degree and will pay well.

      First, there is always mortuary science. People die regardless of the economic cycle, and is sounds grisly, but dealing with the bereaved and handling funerals does need people.

      There will always be a need for plumbers, HVAC people and electricians. There becomes more of a need come construction booms, and people leave the field when the building stops. However, a master HVAC person will find work somewhere.

      Welding is important. Yes

    • Just for the record, the line is "The world needs ditch diggers, too."

      (On a serious note, tradesmen in the difficult trades will make barely and average wage. The ones who make a lot of money go on to own or run businesses either instead of or in addition to their trade. A smart, motivated individual will make good money as a welder by ultimately running a welding or ironworking business. You're average unmotivated wage employee who is a certified welder will simply make an average living.)

      • I'm not sure what you're referencing, I simply translated something I heard once when I was little from Dutch into English ("Putjesscheppers moeten er ook zijn.") A more accurate translation of putjesschepper would be someone who works for the sewage/sanitation department of a city unclogging storm drains all day, but plumber worked better rhetorically and is close enough.

  • Can't find welders? (Score:5, Informative)

    by jandrese (485) <kensama@vt.edu> on Wednesday April 23, 2014 @02:49PM (#46826867) Homepage Journal
    Given the number of fabrication shops that have closed or gone overseas and laid off welders in the past two decades, I find it highly suspicious that companies can't find people to fill their positions. Is this like the H1B "crisis" where Silicon Valley firms can't find tech workers anywhere locally, but it turns out they're asking for DBA administrators with 15 years of experience on 5 different platforms plus 10 years coding experience with 8 different languages and can sysadmin server clusters that are willing to start people at $40k/year? I mean yeah, that guy in India said he could do it at that price, why can't we bring him over here?
    • It's a bit of both and it's the same with software.

      There was this theory at one time that we outsource low-level work and can keep the high-level work.

      The problem is simply how do you build high-level talent without having anyone coming in at the lower level.

      You generally can't and you just exhaust your old high-level talent.

      And yes there is of course the cost equation from overseas as well. They of course forget the payscale difference and the hours worked and the working conditions.

      It's all a scam anyways

    • I think you make a good point. I do believe there is a welder shortage, but it's for niche or highly experienced areas. Companies allowed the pipeline to dry up, and now they are paying the price and scrambling to make up for years of neglect. Don't think you can make a H1B crisis as easily with welding however: people may be confused or intimidated by what advanced scientific and programming fields do, but welding is one that tends to fall more neatly into traditional territory of organized labor. They
  • So now they need workers who can actually build stems.

  • I learned to weld, do electrical work, air conditioning and refrigeration repair, boiler operations, etc. through an apprenticeship. It's a good deal. You get paid to learn. There's a catch though. You've got to join a union. No knowledgeable journeyman is going to train you if you're someplace where seniority doesn't count.
    These days I've moved on to being a licensed professional engineer. Working my way through college on union wages, I graduated without owing any student loans.

  • by Collective 0-0009 (1294662) on Wednesday April 23, 2014 @02:53PM (#46826905)
    I have a background in manufacturing. I have attended Chamber meetings, city gatherings, and focus group-thingies. I heard about this skills gap and how manufacturers needed good qualified employees but just couldn't find them.

    Well, it's bullshit. They can find them... they don't want to pay them. You really think a welder is going to make $150k anytime soon? No.

    The reason Ariel wants the local job center to have the same equipment they have is so they can pay some kid $9/hr (maybe) to run their machines. They don't want a truly skilled employee to run a machine all day. They want a dumb, barely passed maths kid that can follow instructions. Bonus if he already knows where they cycle stop button is located on your machines.

    I like this idea. I think more kids need job training. I do not think manufacturers are truly hurting to fill positions. My last company had no issues with filling positions, even if they wouldn't think of starting someone at more than $10/hr.

    I am not here to bash US manufacturing, as I do think it is vital to US success. But let's not look at this like all the non-tech's look at H1-B's and think that the poor manufacturers are just a victim of our lack luster education system.
    • by King_TJ (85913) on Wednesday April 23, 2014 @04:09PM (#46827701) Journal

      I'm *positive* this is true. I spent well over a decade doing I.T. in manufacturing environments, and my wife spent years more working in similar facilities. Since then, I've also done on-site computer service calls for a number of manufacturing places (mostly steel fabricators and plastics molding companies).

      The one thing I've found in common at ALL of them is a strong desire by management to squeeze costs to the bare minimum, to the point where "standard practice" dictates using as much unskilled, barely qualified labor as possible, while sticking one or two "senior level" guys with the job expectation of training everyone else.

      Of course, this usually leads to disgruntled senior level workers, who feel like they have to spend most of the work day "babysitting" incompetent people all around them (while still being expected to turn out the same amount of work as they always did before). The other low-paid hires tend to be a revolving door, as management fires them whenever they don't learn something quickly enough, or they make a costly mistake or two while trying to learn.

      From the I.T. standpoint, I witnessed the same "penny-wise but pound-foolish" behavior more directly when it came to the equipment on the shop floor or in the labs. They'll invest tens of thousands of dollars on special equipment (most of which is tied in to a standard-issue PC running DOS or a flavor of Windows, except creatively mounted in some kind of steel cabinet so it doesn't *look* like an off-the-shelf PC on the outside). Then when something goes wrong, they want an I.T. guy like me to try to fix it, because the hourly rate for a service call from someone specializing in servicing it is "way too expensive". So far, I've been asked to tear into and try to fix everything from X-Ray Spectrometers to a control system for a "web press" machine that punches holes in steel beams as they roll down a conveyor belt. Truth is, if it's just something simple like bad RAM or a failing hard drive, sure -- I can eventually get that going for them again with a little trial and error. But so often, the issues have been with calibration (mechanical parts drift out of calibration over time, so the software needs some adjustment of values in it to compensate). Or it's some failure with an oddball hardware controller board in the system that I have no way of finding a suitable replacement for.

  • by cahuenga (3493791) on Wednesday April 23, 2014 @02:57PM (#46826959)
    More Wall Street pimping of the "skills mismatch" myth, disproven repeatedly. Wages are not increasing for so-called mismatched skills and it might be interesting to see some actual studies rather than anecdotes being shovels out of manufacturer's lobby groups. Good grief, this is being reported as factual news?
  • This problem has already been solved. It's done with the state sponsored one and two year vocational school programs.
    In more forward looking states, they build these programs in concert with local industries to meet specific needs.

    However, there's a political problem.
    The universities and colleges fight tooth and nail against these schools because they take funding and students.

    • by Trepidity (597) <(gro.hsikcah) (ta) (todhsals-muiriled)> on Wednesday April 23, 2014 @03:24PM (#46827287)

      You can't get the kinds of skills being talked about here through 1- or 2-year vocational programs, though. There is virtually no market for starting welders, because the low-end stuff has been automated or outsourced. What's in demand are people with at least 5+, preferably 10+ years of experience in specific high-skill niches. You can't pick those skills up by taking a year or two of classes at the local community college; you need a more involved apprenticeship program, or a career path where you start in an entry-level job and work your way up. But those entry-level jobs and apprenticeships are few and far between. A few unions provide some training paths (this is common among electricians), but those are way over-subscribed with long waiting lists, too.

      In short, if you could magically take an 18-year-old high school graduate and make them a master welder through a 1-year vocational program, then yeah, they'd have their pick of jobs. But how do you do that?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 23, 2014 @03:04PM (#46827031)

    "Can't find cheap" /= "can't find".

    Becoming a real pipe welder requires superb hand-eye coordination, excellent close vision under welding conditions, and much more experience than you can
    get out of "shop class". It tales talent and absolutely dogged determination.

    American employers want cheap workers but won't train and grow them themselves. They want to hire off the street then discard when the contract is done, but be able to pick up where they left off from a pool of skilled people eagerly awaiting the opportunity to cup balls.

    "To help produce a new generation of welders, pipe-fitters, electricians, carpenters, machinists and other skilled tradesmen, high schools should introduce students to the pleasure and pride they can take in making and building things in shop class."

    No, that's an UNFOCUSED investment. Invest in trade schools and weed out the seat-fillers so you actually graduate capable people.

    Doing that doesn't suit the revenue model of most schools. Community colleges (I worked in one training weldors and now attend it taking CNC machinist courses) could produce enough trained workers, but the pressure to fill class seats means high rates of people who pass the course but are unsuited for demanding work.

    Machinists don't make shit. The "hot dog cart" is a standing joke in machinist forums which you may visit if you doubt me. Real machinists do what they do because they love the work, but many move elsewhere so they can make more money. I'm studying CNC for fun, but I wouldn't try to get into that field for a career. It's too easy to get stuck as an operator due to lack of upward mobility. Good operators make their bosses money, but don't necessarily get to keep much of it.

    Any employers reading this, consider what works elsewhere and worked superbly in the past. APPRENTICESHIPS with a CAREER PATH.

    Apprenticeships train your people your way, and a career path keeps them onboard because gratitude doesn't pay fucking grocery bills.

    Better yet, just outsource to someone who gets this. If you have to ask why you can't get good people you are incompetent.

  • by rolfwind (528248) on Wednesday April 23, 2014 @03:05PM (#46827055)

    I banged the drum of the German model before, but basically you apprentice somewhere for low pay (note, still pay) which increases each year. After that, you have a skill in demand and cannot be copied by someone that gets 2 weeks training or some such at a corporate camp in America.

    My cousin went that route, going as a chef. First he wanted to stay in America, but would have to give out $60k over multiple years at one of the premiere schools here and it wouldn't be training at a real kitchen, but a student kitchen. Great theory and all but just not the same. Also, all he'd interact with would be other students and a handful of professors.

    He went over there, snagged an apprenticeship at a very well respected hotel, and worked in varying stations in the restaurant kitchen from day one. A real kitchen that had to push food out the door at peak hours of lunch and dinner. And he got paid enough to live on and even save. Also got some theory at a state school they sent him every season (free). Now that he's out, his "European-trained chef" credential open a lot more doors than the stateside degree.

    As I see the American model, it looks like most of the liberal arts degrees jobs require is to make sure they don't get an idiot who got passed along in the public school system. However, the degree is often meaningless in context of the job.

    We essentially sold the youth of this country down the river, having diluted the high school diploma to toilet paper and promising them that an expensive college degree is a good way into a good job. Jobs that are increasingly not there.

    If you look at trends of service jobs and outsourcing, the return on a non-stem degrees is questionable compared to having tangible skills that cannot be employed in China and bought back here in a finished product.

    Looking at the longterm trend of US's economy (thanks to it's debt), I would definitely jump onto the skills market again if I were coming out of High School and not all into STEM degree.

    • by Trepidity (597) <(gro.hsikcah) (ta) (todhsals-muiriled)> on Wednesday April 23, 2014 @03:31PM (#46827369)

      While it's worked well historically, Germany is slowly moving in the other direction, in part because students who take the "vocational" path have much higher unemployment rates and much lower lifetime earnings that students who take the "university" path, even those who choose a liberal arts university path. There's been a bit of a worry that Germany is training too many people for jobs that don't exist anymore, while it has a shortage of people with information-economy skills, especially engineering and technology. Part of it also relates to language skills; being fluent in reading/writing English is increasingly an asset, and the vocational track typically doesn't include things like foreign-language study, which are reserved for the universities.

  • by DaveV1.0 (203135) on Wednesday April 23, 2014 @03:09PM (#46827115) Journal
    Are you insane? Shop class means little Johnnie will be around big, dangerous machines and he might get hurt. And, if Johnnie gets hurt, his mommy and daddy are going to sue the school district!
  • need more trades / apprenticeship less college yes even the NBA and NFL need to have minor leagues as well.

  • by dlenmn (145080) on Wednesday April 23, 2014 @03:17PM (#46827189) Homepage

    Interestingly, I had metal shop in middle school, but not high school. (The middle school building used to be the high school, and the new high school didn't get a metal shop, although it did have other shops.) Whoever decided to let middle schoolers weld was crazy, but in a good way. It should definitely be available in high school.

    I'm a physics grad student now, and I've used the student shop here to make custom parts -- in part because the real machinists in the instrument shop have a several month backlog. I guess that's inline with the article's claim. I've got a ton of respect for the machinists here: it requires lots of skill and problem solving abilities; it's not easy to make the crazy stuff we want. In short, their jobs aren't in danger of automation, and apparently there's demand for them. The same cannot be said for communications and journalism majors...

  • by matbury (3458347) on Wednesday April 23, 2014 @03:17PM (#46827195) Homepage

    "Shop" and physically making things in school isn't so much about training people to do manual jobs at some point in the dim and distant future. Physically manipulating materials, objects, and tools helps to develop spatial awareness (AKA http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/S... [wikipedia.org]) which is a highly valuable and broadly transferable skill. If you want your kids to be good at Math, Physics, Chemistry, as well as the arts, design, etc., get them making stuff, taking stuff apart to see how it works, etc. from a young age. It'll work wonders for their cognitive development.

  • by WarSpiteX (98591) on Wednesday April 23, 2014 @03:17PM (#46827199) Homepage

    Looking at the comments so far, so many of them talk about safety and comfort being the reasons people take desk jobs rather than blue collar.

    Bullshit.

    After 40 years of continually shitting on unions, blue collar work, and glorifying every other career choice (badass cop! miraculous doctor! patriot marine! caring nurse! brainy engineer! saint virgin-for-life network guy!), Americans are now wondering why nobody wants these jobs.

    And now that those who stuck with it are getting paid, suddenly there's a "labor shortage" and we'd better fucking train some people before they realize that a shortage of labor is an excess of pay.

  • A labour shortage you say? The hotest labour trend right now in Canada is Temporary Foreign Workers [actionplan.gc.ca].

    Take a look at some headlines from the past couple hours:
    Pizza place faces federal grilling over temporary foreign workers [theglobeandmail.com]
    McDonald's foreign worker practices halted in face of investigation [www.cbc.ca]
    PBO: Temporary Foreign Worker Program May Be Taking 1/4 Of New Jobs [huffingtonpost.ca]
  • I went to a fairly large high school (3000+ students) that had an attached "career center". I took a few of the 1 hour classes, including basic electronics and drafting (including autocad). They also offered 3 hour vocational classes for people who did not plan on going to college. These included auto repair, plumbing, cosmetology, child care (where they took care of other student's kids and allowed them to stay in school), and medical/dental assistance.

    It was a large building with a lot of expensive stu

  • Mike Rowe (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Dcnjoe60 (682885) on Wednesday April 23, 2014 @03:20PM (#46827237)

    That's basically what Mike Rowe (Dirty Jobs) has been saying. He started a foundation to to provide funding for high school graduates to go to various skilled labor trade schools instead of college. Most skilled labor jobs are currently held by aging baby boomers and when they retire, there won't be enough people to fill the need. College isn't the answer for these jobs.

  • Where does one find a place that would teach/certify me in welding? I've already got a day job developing. Useful skills to have when the zombie apocalypse comes.
  • by Animats (122034) on Wednesday April 23, 2014 @03:37PM (#46827417) Homepage

    Very few welders make $150K. The ones who do are the ones who weld expensively fabricated parts together under tough conditions and get it right the first time. They're probably welding some pressure vessel for a chemical plant, the weld will be X-ray inspected and the unit hydrostatically tested, and if there's a problem, a do-over is really expensive. Most welders aren't that good. Not even close.

    $12-$18/hour is typical for average welders. Even then, most of the jobs are in construction, which means a layoff at the end of each project.

    • by fullmetal55 (698310) on Wednesday April 23, 2014 @06:27PM (#46828741)

      You aren't from Alberta are you?

      and yeah layoffs at the end of the season are common, but they're still pulling in big bucks ($150k easily) in the oil sands. Now granted up on the rigs a do-over is very expensive, so you have to be a good welder to get the job done right the first time or you will get fired quickly. and if we could get a welder for $12-18/hr... those would be very inexperienced crappy welders. I'm sure I could do a better job than the guys who'd do it for $12-18 an hour here. My town has more welders per capita than most other professions.

  • by Animats (122034) on Wednesday April 23, 2014 @04:08PM (#46827693) Homepage

    First, the "Manufacturing Skills Gap" report only comes out once every 5 years or so. The last one is from 2011. [themanufac...titute.org]

    The report says that only 5% of manufacturing jobs are un-filled. It also says that "only 31% of respondent-companies report having formal career development", and that "respondents indicate that access to a highly skilled, flexible workforce is the most important factor in their effectiveness."

    So there's the problem. Manufacturing companies are asking for a pool of immediately available ("flexible") employees with specific skills, and less than a third of companies are trying to train their own. Even then, there's only a 5% shortage. They want government to solve the problem for them, instead of putting more money into training or apprenticeships. There's a need for basic shop education, but from the numbers, it's not a big need.

    Welding is a very specific skill, learned through practice. It requires some visualization talent; if you can't whittle or freehand sketch, welding is a bad career choice, because hand welding is a precision freehand task. Welding training requires a modest amount of instruction and a lot of practice. If companies want better welders, they can hire beginner welders and train them up. This means a lot of people on the payroll busily burning rod and working up from making angle irons to welding two pipes end to end with a strong, leak-tight joint. (I suck at welding and free-form sheet metal, but can do machining and rectangular sheet metal.)

  • by Scot Seese (137975) on Wednesday April 23, 2014 @07:39PM (#46829171)

    My Ex's sister - Yes, Sister, you can break out your "Flashdance" jokes now - was a master welder in Europe. She worked contract assignments all over Germany, Sweden - wherever steel was going up. She was doing very, very well for herself.

    She went back to university and completed a long-abanded degree. When asked why she was quitting her welding career, she said simply that being on a job site at 6 in the morning when it's below freezing and you have to crouch over a piece of frozen steel for 11 hours, it's not much fun. It's like military interrogation "stress positioning" for a living. She also indicated that there was some recent (mid 2000s) research in Europe that the gasses released during the welding process were suspected as having a causal relationship with highly increased odds of developing Parkinsons disease.

    She crushed university and got a lower paying but still comfortable professional job riding an office chair 8-5.

    I have an old friend in Ohio who's brother in-law owns a successful machine shop. He told me over dinner a few months ago that some of his competitors will order large project pieces from China. It's literally cheaper to have men fabricate a large part - A 25' long, 3' diameter steel stack for example - truck the thing to a dock, ship it across the pacific ocean, truck it to Northeast Ohio, then have one or two of their guys fix nearly ALL the fucked up Chinese welds, THEN deliver the part to the customer - than it is to fabricate and weld the damn thing on site.

    This WSJ article is full of smoke written by a journalist who's probably never pulled a splinter out of his hand, swung a hammer or broken a sweat without wearing fluorescent trainers on his feet.

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