This piece was originally published in the August 2017 issue of electroindustry.
Bruce Albrecht, Vice President of Global Innovation & Technology, Miller Electric Manufacturing Co.
It is no secret that there is a shortage of welders in the world today.
The American Welding Society estimates that by 2024, the industry will be 400,000 weld operators short of demand. Lack of educators and funding to teach the trade are key challenges that contribute to the shortage. While some high schools have withdrawn specialized classes and programs from their curricula, others have joined forces with technical colleges to enhance their class offerings.
As a manufacturer of welding equipment, Miller Electric Manufacturing Company has developed a two-pronged approach to help solve the welder shortage—collaboration and technical innovations.
Miller is collaborating with technical colleges and area businesses to upgrade curricula and enrich classroom experiences, developing talent to feed back to local industries. For instance, Miller and Fox Valley Technical College worked with Oshkosh Corporation to create the Advanced Manufacturing Technology Center. This state of the art facility with welding equipment and instructors is designed to build workforce skills. In addition to Fox Valley Tech, Miller Electric partners with many other programs by participating on advisory boards. These efforts are bridging welding education with technology while encouraging the growth of welding programs.
Building community connections through people is important, too. Michael Brandt, owner of Garage Bound in Chattanooga, Tennessee, works with students at a nearby high school to inspire students to express themselves through welding. When Mr. Brandt won an online competition, he donated his winnings to a local school to support its welding program.
Innovative technologies also help beginners learn welding more easily and improve their skills. Augmented reality systems help students practice welding in a realistic and interpretive way. These products use sensors and simulation technology to allow students to weld and receive feedback on technique. In addition to training systems, there are specific products that deliver work instructions and weld quality analytics, providing real-time weld quality feedback and driving continuous improvement in both the classroom and on the factory floor.
With an emphasis on industry partnerships and technology, we are starting to transition the way welding and teaching welding are done.