Who keeps grocery stores stocked with beef from Nebraska, potato chips from Idaho, and corn from Iowa? Who makes sure gas from the Gulf Coast gets to pumps across the nation? Truckers. And who makes their semi-trucks and trailers? Welders and metal fabricators.

These tradespeople make a whole lot more than trucks and trailers though. Welding is used in the manufacture of airplanes, trains, ships, bridges, buildings, oil rigs, spacecraft, and electronics. More than half of American goods are made by welding, according to data highlighted from Tulsa Welding School.

Welding & Manufacturing

Welding is used throughout the manufacturing industry, and manufacturing is a major part of the US economy. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of May 2021, some 12.2 million people were working in manufacturing. That’s about 8% percent of the total American workforce.

These manufacturing workers make a larger contribution to the prosperity of our country than their numbers suggest. In 2020 manufacturing made up almost 11.4% of the total Gross Domestic Product. In dollar terms, manufacturing contributed $2.3 trillion. That’s 2.3 followed by 11 zeros. To put it another way, the work of each person employed in the manufacturing industry contributed $189,000.

If you’re wondering where your share of that is, well it’s complicated. Don’t forget that there are materials and tools and energy all wrapped up in that. But the point is, manufacturing, and welding matters a great deal.

Indiana Manufacturing & Welding

Guess which state is a massive manufacturing hub? Indiana. Almost one in five Hoosiers can be proud to have a hand in keeping the country moving. And speaking of having an outsized impact, manufacturing contributes 26% of Indiana’s GDP.

Manufacturing employment dropped during the Great Recession of 2008/2009 but it’s grown steadily since. Pre-pandemic, Indiana had added back some 87,200 manufacturing jobs according to Indiana University’s Kelly School of Business.

Many of those jobs have likely been in the welding sector. Several regions in Indiana stand out in Bureau of Labor Statistics data as places where a lot of welders are employed in 2020. To give two notable examples:

  • Elkhart-Goshen, IN: 2,390 welding jobs or almost 19 out of every 1,000 jobs, up from 2,100 jobs in 2017
  • Northern Indiana: 2,850 welding jobs, 14 out of every 1,000 jobs, up from 2,400 jobs in 2017

Skilled Trades Labor Shortage

Despite a widespread perception that everything is made overseas, domestic manufacturing is booming. The IHS Markit Manufacturing PMI Index is above 60.0, which means Purchasing Managers, (who do the buying and therefore have their fingers on the pulse,) are strongly optimistic and anticipating growth.

In parallel, the Institute for Supply Management’s March 2021 “Manufacturing ISM Report On Business” refers to increasing order backlogs. Even our own, “2021 Manufacturing and Metal Fabrication Forecast” anticipated this would be a busy year.

Of course, every manufacturing and fabrication business is happy to have plenty of orders, but we have one concern in common too: where are we going to find the people to do all the work?

The skills shortage isn’t new, but it is getting worse. Boomers are retiring and young people just aren’t being drawn in to replace them. It’s widely predicted that manufacturing will be short of some 2 million workers by the end of the decade, with welding being one of the “crunch” fields.

Trade School Career Path

Another reason for the skilled labor shortage is that too few young people are going to trade school. Many are being steered towards universities instead, even when that might not be their best option. A lot of kids drop out before graduating and are left unemployed and in debt.

Those that do graduate often can’t find work and the ones that do are often saddled with huge loans that will take years to pay back. If only a parent, family friend or high school counselor had told them about all of the career opportunities in the skilled trades, particularly welding, their prospects might look a whole lot better.

Join Us

At Wiley, we’re planning on expanding our team of welders. We have other open positions too, but we’d especially like to hear from anyone, men and women, young or old, who can weld. We believe this is a good place to work, and here are four reasons to join us. If you’re interested in learning more, apply online today, or give us a call. We’d like to hear from you.