Future welders gather for a competition in Moultrie - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Future welders gather for a competition in Moultrie

Jacob Flanagan from Tulsa Welding School.  TWS has around 3000 students going through a seven month program. Jacob Flanagan from Tulsa Welding School. TWS has around 3000 students going through a seven month program.
A judge looks at a student's handiwork at the welding competition at Colquitt County High School. A judge looks at a student's handiwork at the welding competition at Colquitt County High School.
A student welds during the competition at Colquitt County High School.  Scholarships to Tulsa Welding School were being handed out for the students in attendance. A student welds during the competition at Colquitt County High School. Scholarships to Tulsa Welding School were being handed out for the students in attendance.
Welding involves high temperatures and bright lights, so safety equipment is paramount as can be seen here. Welding involves high temperatures and bright lights, so safety equipment is paramount as can be seen here.
MOULTRIE, GA (WALB) -

Finding work isn't easy these days, but one field that is growing is welding.

The federal government expects the number of welding jobs to grow by 15 per cent over the next 7 years

But there aren't enough people training in the field to meet that need.

Sparks were flying at Colquitt County High School Friday morning as welders from around South Georgia gathered for a competition.

"There's 26 students competing," said Tim Hobbs, the Welding Instructor at Colquitt County High School.

One of those welders was 12th grader Forest Steuer from Lee County High School.  For many of these students, trades like welding came naturally.

"I was always good with my hands," he said.

Not everyone here is a veteran welder.

"We've got some students that are on a very basic level this may be their first year at welding," said Hobbs.

But while it may not seem like it, finding and creating veteran welders is still important in the digital age.

Welding jobs like the one that you see being done behind me are going to become very important in the future as welders that are currently in the field begin to retire.

That's something that students like Steuer know very well.

"The average age for a welder is in the 50s and 60s and most of them are ready to retire and that opens up a lot of jobs for younger kids coming out," he said.

With the push to get students to earn four year degrees, education in trades like welding have been de-emphasized.  That's left a shallow labor pool.

Jacob Flanagan from the Tulsa Welding School said, "we're a half million welders short as of January 1st of this year."

With most goods coming into the country moving by ship, welders in shipyards like the one at the Port of Savannah are going to be in high demand.  That's where many of Flanagan's grads at the Tulsa Welding School wind up.

"Our biggest supporter is Huntington and Ingalls, the shipyard out of Pascagoula," said Flanagan.

Other students may be getting the message as well, at least if the number of students in the trade classes here are any indication.

Hobbs said, "the numbers are increasing. And more than just students going into the program, what I'm seeing is students leaving the program and going into the industry and actually making it a career."

There's no doubt that if the job trends continue as they have, the number of students who will be getting jobs in this field will continue to climb.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics says the average pay for a welder is around $17 per hour, but some welders make much more than that.

Welding courses are offered at several trade schools and many technical colleges in our area.

Copyright 2013 WALB.  All rights reserved.

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