Qualified welding professionals are massively in demand in the manufacturing and construction industries. Welding is a fast growing industry and it relies on the successful qualification of trained professionals to enter the workforce. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicted that the demand for welders was set to grow by 26 percent by the end of 2020, however, Covid-19 has since reduced this prediction.
As we struggle to deal with the pandemic, the National Center for Welding Education and Training have conducted research to understand the impact of Covid-19 to welding education. Not only could this have an impact on students’ ability to successfully achieve certification, but cause a further shortage in qualified welders in the US.
Since Covid-19 first hit the US, welding instructors have been fighting to find new ways of providing suitable training for students. Welding instruction has typically been a hands-on learning experience, so instructors’ day-to-day methods have faced restrictions which has forced them to innovate and find new ways of working.
Online learning has replaced ordinary on-site tuition. This has developed well in some areas, such as practical theory, where the transfer of information has been the predominant form of teaching. However, instructors have been severely hindered in the tutoring of practical application. Some students do not have access to the same equipment, and cannot be shown in person how to develop their skills. Online courses presented via video have had some success. Some students have also been able to develop their skills through the abundance of digital learning now available online. Free resources on websites such as Kings of Welding and training videos on Youtube have helped students in the absence of hands-on teaching, but this has proved is no substitute for real tutoring.
In a letter to the U.S. Assistant Secretary of Labor John Pallasch, President and CEO of the American Association of Community Colleges Walter Bumphus states, “It became clear that while community colleges had the capacity to convert courses to online instruction, they also had reservations about doing so and about the negative impact it would have on training programs across multiple industry sectors. Online learning is appropriate for certain courses and it is an effective tool for learning. However, the universal application of it in CTE and RTI [related technical instruction] programs does not remove the need for face-to-face labs and experiences that must be conducted in person.”
As welder training continues online, it is clear that to ensure the adequate training of welders, students will need to return to physical tutoring. Without this, there are serious question marks over the successful qualification of welders and maintaining the introduction of skilled welders into the workforce.