You’ve heard of Rosie the Riveter, well how about Wendy the Welder? Right now it’s unlikely you know many women welders, even if you work in the fabrication industry. That’s because only about 5% of the welders in the US are women, according to a recent NBC News report, but things might be about to change. The future is bright for women welders, and here’s why.
What Welders Do
Obviously, welders weld, but there’s a bit more to it than that. First, there are many types of welding — resistance, friction, and so on. What we’re talking about is gas metal arc welding (GMAW), which breaks down into MIG and TIG welding.
GMAW does more than simply join metal. Adhesives, fasteners, brazing, and soldering all join metal. What welding does is fuse separate pieces together so they become one. The welder uses the heat of an electric arc to create a weld pool — a puddle of molten metal formed by locally melting the pieces being joined. Depending on the type of joint and the metals being welded, it may be necessary to add a third “filler” metal to ensure a good join.
Creating a good weld is hard, for many reasons. Molten metal likes to oxidize, and that means there’s a high chance of bubbles forming – we call it porosity – in the weld. These reduce weld strength, clearly a bad thing.
Expansion is another challenge, more so if you’re welding dissimilar metals. As the weld pool solidifies the metal shrinks, and that can lead to distortion and cracking.
Skilled welders understand all these issues, and know-how to deal with them, but we still haven’t covered the whole job. There’s a lot of preparation needed before the arc is struck. The metal pieces must be cleaned thoroughly, and then set up. This is where they’re positioned before welding, and this takes into account all the distortion and shrinkage that’s going to happen. Then, once the weld has cooled, the workpiece or weldment often needs cleaning to remove spatter.
So the bottom line is, welders, do a skilled job. Most will also tell you it’s a rewarding job. When everything’s cooled down and you throw back the helmet you have the satisfaction of seeing that you’ve created something. Who doesn’t like that?
Welding is an Excellent Career Choice
Job satisfaction is important, but it’s not the only thing that makes welding a good career choice. Here are three more reasons:
- Demand is strong for experienced welders
- Good pay and benefits
- Doesn’t need a four-year degree
Let’s dive into those a little deeper.
Demand for Women Welders
Let’s be honest here: welding right now is a profession dominated by older men, and lots of them will soon be retiring. That’s why the American Welding Society estimates the country is going to need another 375,000 welders over the next couple of years.
Adding to that, there’s a lot of reshoring going on, which means more manufacturing work and jobs. And on top of that, it seems likely there’s going to be more investment in infrastructure, which means more work for welders.
So, bottom line, there are and will continue to be lots of opportunities for women welders.
Pay and Benefits
This is where we need to apply a measure of realism. While you may have seen some media reports of welders making six-figure salaries, those jobs are few and far between. For most, you’ll need to be certified and probably working offshore in the oil and gas industry. Now those folks really do earn their money!
However, welders can make good money without traveling to the Gulf of Mexico or Alaska. The Bureau of Labor Statistics says that in 2020 median pay for “Welders, Cutters, Solderers, and Brazers” (an odd grouping, but that’s the government at work,) was $44,190 per year. (Remember though that that is a national figure and there are regional differences.)
Now, let’s say a little about what we offer employees here at Wiley Metal. Competitive compensation of course, but in addition, we offer:
- A benefits package that includes medical, dental, vision, and a 401k
- Holiday pay after 30 days
- 3 days of vacation after 6 months
- Advance notice is given for overtime
- Attendance bonus
- A knowledge-based compensation program. The more you learn, the more you earn.
We’d add that we’re a family business where employees are never just a number. When you work here we’ll know your name, and we hope you’ll get to know ours. In addition, you’ll have the satisfaction of being part of a team that makes things that make other people’s lives better.
No Degree Required
Something else that’s attractive about a welding career: you don’t need to spend four years at school beforehand. Unless you want to of course. A degree in metallurgy wouldn’t hurt because welding is a technical subject, but it isn’t required.
That said, you can learn to weld while working a full-time job, and you won’t need to take out huge loans to pay for it all. It’s just not a difficult field to get into and it doesn’t take long before you’re making money doing it.
Women and Welding
Rosie the Riveter was the name given to the thousands of women who went to work in factories during WWII. This didn’t come about through a sudden desire to treat women as equals, it was a matter of necessity. Men were being drafted into the military, which took them away from the factories. At the same time, the country needed huge numbers of tanks and aircraft and Jeeps and so on. So there was no choice but to bring women into the manufacturing workforce.
The situation today is somewhat different, but the same problem exists. Fabrication shops and manufacturing businesses everywhere need people to work for them, and welders are especially in demand for the reasons we gave above. So frankly, we don’t care what gender our welders are, so long as they can create a good weld. (Okay, we’d also like them to show up on time every day and work hard, but is that too much to ask?)
Women Who Weld
In an interesting development, there’s a nonprofit that exists to help women start careers in welding. It’s called, simply enough, “Women Who Weld” and they seem to be doing good work. If you’re a woman who’s wondering if you could be a welder, take a look at their website: you might be inspired.
While Wiley Metal encourages young women to consider a career in welding, it is also a viable option for women re-entering the workforce or those who are unemployed. With the proper training, women looking for work can go from struggling to a middle-class income in less than a year. If you’re interested in a career in welding, good places to start are Trade Schools and Community Colleges. Most run programs are designed to turn out capable welders. And if you are an experienced welder and you’d like a change of scene or a bit more variety in your work, apply online today, or give us a call. We’d like to hear from you.