Welders in high demand, but industry struggles to fill jobs

TULSA - While millions struggle to find jobs, demand for workers in the welding industry continues to grow nationwide, including in Tulsa.

By the time Anthony Albert finishes welding school next week, he hopes to have a job lined up.

"I have a few job leads right now. One may be out of state," said Albert.

Albert doesn't have a lot to worry about since demand for skilled welders is high.

Part of the reason for the high demand is because welding jobs are tied closely to a variety of other industries who continue to grow worldwide.

Plus, Tulsa is unique unto itself.

"Tulsa is and used to be one of the largest cities for manufactured iron," said Gary Small, a welding jobs coordinator at Stand-By Personnel, an employment agency in Midtown.

Small said most people who come in are looking for welding careers.

Stand-By Personnel offers a variety of resources to help applicants find jobs, including a welding shop, where their skills are tested.

Small said if they show potential, they work with applicants.

But filling jobs in the welding industry hasn't been easy.

"Not everybody's cut out to be a welder. There's just a lot of things that play a part of being a welder itself," said Small.

Qualified applicants need the necessary skill set, which some don't have. Then, there are the long hours.

Many companies want employees to work 12-hour days.

"I think a lot of companies have difficulty getting people to work those long hours," said Gene Norwood, a welding instructor and owner of Four M Welding School in north Tulsa.

Norwood said many of his students are in their late 30s and early 40s and looking to change careers, mainly for better pay.

The nationwide median pay for a welder is $17.04, or $35,450 per year, according to labor statistics.

Depending on the skill level, pay can be much higher.

"A lot of them are making in the low $30 an hour," said Norwood. "You add up your overtime and per diem, it adds up pretty quick."

Norwood said younger people don't seem to be as interested in welding careers.

Norwood expects the number of welding jobs available to grow as baby boomers retire.

Indeed, the U.S. Labor Department estimates the number of welding jobs will grow 15 percent by 2020.

As for Albert, he is optimistic about his future welding career.

"The money, financially it's there. You just got to be willing to do it," he said.

Print this article Back to Top