Making the grade: Welding certification

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by Tim Wilson

Welding certification provides the credibility factor

For job shops and welders alike, it can be critical to achieve the desired level of certification. This is not only to assure that projects are done to the right specifications, but also to meet requirements within the supply chain. If a shop of any size wants to supply products to major manufacturers, then having welders and businesses certified by the CWB Group is a must.

“It is important to have all our welders certified by the CWB, as it is a requirement for almost all the jobs we build,” says Rick Reid, quality control manager at Precision Steel & Manufacturing Ltd. in Edmonton, AB. “It also helps the shop, as we know that all the welders have a certain degree of skill to be able to pass the testing requirements of the CWB.”

The CWB also certifies inspectors and their organizations, as well as welding consumables. A review and qualification process ensures the welding industry meets the requirements for a variety of standards, including product and safety codes. That said, one important focus of the CWB is to keep things simple.

“While sometimes the science behind welding can be complex, I would suggest that the certification program is quite simple in its approach,” says Craig Martin, VP for public safety at the CWB Group. “It is purposefully designed to be‘generic’ in nature.”

This allows for the adoption of certification by numerous industry segments producing a multitude of products, and using a wide range of welding processes. As more industries embrace certification, the effectiveness of the approach is being proven in the marketplace. But for certification to remain relevant, it has to keep up with the times.

Increasingly, job shops are discovering the benefits of welding certification. It lends a welding company credibility and the opportunity to land more orders with new customers. Image: Lincoln Electric Company of Canada”The certification standards are by no means stagnant or unchanging in their approach,” says Martin. “Driven by industry, they are continually being updated to ensure they reflect the needs of the industry and advances in technology and best practices.”

The challenge is to make certification accessible and intelligible, while also ensuring that the approach is coherent, with the support of industry stakeholders. Within that context, job shops then have to decide to what extent they are willing to invest in their own workforce–or if they will take the time to hunt down someone who is already certified.

“We can do some in-house testing and hire a new welder,” says Reid from Precision Steel. “He or she can work under the supervision of the certified welding supervisor until we can have the CWB come and do the testing.”

This mixed approach to welding certification is common for job shops of all sizes. Each employee is unique, and it makes sense to have an open view wherein certification is a shared responsibility–something that benefits both the worker and the employer.

“We have hired some workers who are already certified, and then we maintain their certification,” says Allison Nielsen, president of Dan’s Welding & Fabricating Ltd., in Burlington, ON. “And we have also trained junior employees to a point of certification.”

This versatility makes sense, given that many job shops simply can’t afford to wait until they find a welder with the correct certification. If the employee is otherwise skilled–and teachable–then the upfront investment in certification pays off. After all, many industries require certification: if you don’t have it, you’re potentially losing business.

“The certification gives the company a wider listing of jobs we are able to bid on,” says Reid. “It helps us when it comes to bidding on jobs, because the client knows the type of documentation we have to keep and deliver to the client.”

The CWB Group has seen the demand for certification grow beyond the historical structural steel industry. Image: ESABThe CWB has seen the demand for certification grow beyond the historical ‘structural steel’ industry segment, suggesting that job shops see the internal value. This is key, because for certification to have relevance it can’t be an arbitrary process that is driven exclusively by industry requirements; it has to provide real value to the job shop as well.

“Being CWB approved is not only an opportunity to meet the requirements of the standards,” says Nielsen. “It also helps us document our welding procedures, verify and improve the skills of our welding personnel, improve quality and productivity, and to meet and exceed client expectations.”

As it stands, the certification standards are designed to work with any fusion welding process. The central principles and requirements for things like education, experience, competence and testing can be applied both to basic and advanced welding processes. This levels the playing field, opening up new opportunities for job shops both big and small. SMT

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