by Ian Campbell
Welding is a career choice, not just a job
The phone is a great invention–and once in a while the person on the other end of a call makes me step back and consider the messages that get sent out in our industry. Case in point: a call came in recently from a welder who was clearly upset that there was, and has been for a long time, a lot of noise around skilled welder shortages, but there he was–fully under employed. He had formal training, appropriate welding tickets, but no immediate job prospects. He was upset, and felt he been sold a bill of goods by his school.
Whatever your thoughts might be on a real or perceived shortage of jobs for skilled welders in Canada, it is important to consider that education and employment are not interchangeable. What I mean is having an education is not a guarantee of employment. Logically, education can lead to employment, but education alone (as well as industry certification, tickets, etc.) is not a guarantee. Just like everyone with an MBA is not a superstar business leader, not everyone who has taken a welding course and gets a welding ticket is going to be a great welder. The problem, as illustrated by my welder caller, is one of optics in the industry (not enough welders), the selling of education as a means to a fixed end goal–a job. All education is good but I’m a firm believer that welding should be a career someone chooses, not just a course they take to “get a job”.
When viewed from the perspective of following a career path, it should be obvious to the soon-to-be-welder (as well as my caller) that the road to real employment is not one-shot training leading to a single outcome: a welding ticket. Rather, it’s a set of on-going steps or “skills upgrades” that happen over a long period of time, building real, demonstrable and measurable skills that–most importantly–provide value to their employer. Any school can teach welding, and with a bit of training, most welders can get a ticket; what’s harder to do is to clearly demonstrate value.
Value, that’s a great word. It’s worth noting that no instructor can actually teach “value,” rather, it is the sum of all that has been learned up to a point in one’s career. One-shot training provides, at best, one-shot fixed value. While employers clearly want trained employees, what they really want is employees that provide value when hired, as well in the future. As I said to my caller, “you need to think in terms of a career, not just landing a job, and the ticket alone will not do it for you.” To which he replied, “so, where do I find a career?” Good question…
Building an education system that embraces careers is not straightforward. Having just rolled out a national training program for welders (CWB Institute’s Acorn), I can tell you it is easy to focus on meeting the perceived needs of the student, the “I want a job” syndrome, and following the requirements and policies that govern the creation of courses within academia.
What is more difficult to do is reinvent the process from the perspective of the employer. The task here was to frame the training processes and supporting programs so students, educators and relevant oversight bodies now have the collective content, tools and financial support to start thinking bigger (careers not just jobs) and begin to move in the same direction, to the benefit of all. I’m happy to report there is movement here as a result of CWB Institute’s Acorn. Maybe for the first time there’s an opportunity to check all those boxes. My team and I had the benefit of a clean slate, we know we can roll out Acorn across the country and provide industry with what they want: value, measurability and a consistent and motivated national pool of welding professionals.
Moving back to my caller–the answer I had to his last questions was “wait a bit.” We’ve done what we can to put the pieces together, now it requires industry and educators to do their part. In the next couple of columns, I will outline what Acorn is, how it will benefit everyone, how you can help and, as a result, help yourself. Even if you are not in the welding trades, Acorn might provide some insight on what your trade can do in terms of innovating training and building your ranks.
In the meantime, if you want to know more, check out the CWB Group website. SMT
Ian Campbell is the director of marketing and product development for the CWB Group.