“Things need to be repaired, maintained, and improved because if we let them go for the next 60-90 days it would be a lot more expensive for companies and would probably cost a lot more jobs in the long run.” — Robert Jenkins, a steamfitter and welder in Springfield, Oregon1
While workers across the nation are forced to stay home during the COVID-19 pandemic, many welders continue to ply their trade at construction sites.1,2
Why? Because their state’s government deemed them essential workers, along with other skilled trades people in the construction industry.1
The federal government’s list of essential workers includes construction and manufacturing workers.3
Who are essential workers? And why are welders among them?
Keep reading for answers and a closer look at the critical role of welders in keeping America safe and strong during the crisis and beyond.
Essential Workers Meaning
Use of the term “essential worker” predates the COVID-19 pandemic. Back in 2013, the Essential Services Act defined essential workers to help government agencies figure out which employees to furlough and which ones to keep:4
“The term ‘essential employee’ means an employee that performs work involving the safety of human life or the protection of property…”4
Now the phrase is making news headlines because federal, state and local governments are allowing only essential workers to continue doing their jobs during the national health crisis.5
Federal List of Essential Workers: Construction and Manufacturing
At the national level, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Agency (CISA) published the “Advisory Memorandum on Identification of Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers During COVID-19 Response” on April 17, 2020.3
Manufacturing and construction workers appear several times on CISA’s list of essential workers.3
Welding is the most common method of permanently fusing metal parts, and it has widespread applications in the construction and manufacturing industries.
In fact, the manufacturing industry is the top employer of welders, accounting for 63% of the welding workforce in 2018, reports the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Specialty trade contractors employed 6% of welders and repair and maintenance companies 4%.6
Welders Work in Essential Industries
Compare the BLS’ occupational profile of industries in which welders work to CISA’s list of essential industries and workers.
|Welder Industries (BLS)||Essential Industries (CISA)|
|Manufacturing7||Critical manufacturing workers needed to manufacture metals for supply chains for transportation, energy, aerospace, the operation of dams and the defense industrial base.3|
|Automotive manufacturing7||Workers critical to the manufacturing and maintenance of vehicles and transportation equipment.3|
|Building construction7||Workers who support the maintenance, rehabilitation and construction of critical infrastructure.3|
|Pipeline, power plant and refinery construction7||Workers in the petroleum industry supporting construction and manufacturing.3|
|Electrical and electronic circuit board and computer chip manufacturing7||Workers supporting the manufacture of infrastructure for computing services and critical manufacturing.3|
As you can see from the chart, welders play an important role in many industries, and their work helps keep the country safe and strong.7
State Lists of Essential Workers: Welders and Skilled Trades Workers
The mayors of individual states issued orders defining which workers are essential. For example, the mayor of Washington D.C. published the “Closure of Non-Essential Business and Prohibition on Large Gatherings During Public Health Emergency for the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19)” on March 24, 2020.8
Welders, along with plumbers, pipefitters and electricians, all made the list of essential workers because they were considered necessary to maintaining the sanitation, safety and operation of essential businesses and residences.8
New York and California classified construction workers as essential.1
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Welding Training to Prepare for Essential Careers
How can you prepare for an essential career in welding?
The BLS states that a high school diploma or GED is typically necessary to become a welder. Formal welding training is usually required because many employers prefer to hire workers who’ve completed welding training or credentialing programs. On-the-job training is typically necessary as well.9
Vocational and technical schools may offer welding training. Private welding schools have programs dedicated to learning the trade.9
A The Professional Welder program at Tulsa Welding School, for example, offers instruction in fundamental welding processes and practices:
- MIG & fluxcore welding
- Structural welding I and II
- Basic pipe welding
- Pipe welding I and II
- Advanced pipefitting
- TIG and/or pipeline welding
Many welding schools offer welding classes that can help prepare students for welding certifications, such as the American Welding Society’s Certified Welder program.10 Some welding schools serve as an American Welding Society testing site. For example, graduates of Tulsa Welding School may test for AWS certification at the school’s Jacksonville, Florida, campus.
Welders: Essential to the Future of America’s Infrastructure
Welders can be essential to constructing and maintaining critical infrastructure now during COVID-19, but what about after the crisis?3
When discussing the welder job outlook, the BLS indicates welders will likely be needed in the future to keep America’s infrastructure strong:
- Rebuilding buildings, bridges and highways.
- Constructing new pipelines for transporting oil and natural gas, as well as power generation facilities.
- Fusing metal in manufacturing industries that make transportation equipment and fabricated metal products.12
This suggests welders could be essential workers in the future. To keep America strong. To keep America moving. To keep America safe.
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