Welding as a Career
Chief Manager (Welding), TWI (India) P Ltd, Chennai
In today’s highly competitive world every individual is keen on acquiring or continues to acquire such qualifications and certifications that will help them progress in their career, preferably, at a rapid pace. The term ‘progress,’ most of the time, means higher emoluments, benefits, positions in an organisation, etc. In order to achieve this, individuals keep looking at the industry trends, emerging opportunities, feedback from their friends, etc. and take decisions as to how they should equip themselves to progress further in their career. Some individuals don’t hesitate to make even drastic changes in their field of activities to embrace new opportunities. In such a scenario where does welding stand? Does it offer a good career? Is it worth venturing in this field? What sort of personnel are required in this field? Is it an equally sought after field and, if not, why not? Is it a developing field or a field waiting to be written off? Is it a recent field or an ancient field of technology which has not developed over the ages? What type of job can it provide and what will be the type of environment in which we may be working? Does it provide opportunities for all engineering fields or only to a few? Is there any formal qualification, certification leading to specific jobs or is it a field full of self-formulated personnel? Where can one get details of the opportunities in this field? This paper tries to answer most of these questions and also discusses why welding can be an equally good career opportunity for many individuals.
To understand welding as a career, the best way to start is to understand what welding is. Without going in to too many technicalities, it can be simply said that welding is a method of joining materials to form a permanent union. With this definition, one can understand and appreciate the vastness of this field. There can be hardly any industry in which the joining of materials is not required. Every industry, therefore, has to have some welding activity for joining of materials. It should be noted here that many believe that welding is restricted only to metals, but it is not so anymore and even materials like plastics are welded.
Now the question comes; is welding the only joining method? No. There are other methods like riveting, bolting, brazing, soldering, etc. but out of all these methods, welding is the most ideal and economical method for joining and, today, is a preferred method for joining many materials. In fact, brazing and soldering are considered as allied processes and are often studied together with welding. So, competitive technologies are there, but welding scores over them in many cases.
In ancient times, two pieces of metal were heated and joined together by repeatedly beating them in the hot condition. This method is now known as forge welding and the use of this method dates back to the Iron Age and some evidence also show that welding of gold was done in the bronze age, about 2000 years ago (Ref 1). Welding has developed from that time onwards and more than 100 years ago, the first commercial arc welding process, manual metal arc welding (MMA) and the welding electrode were developed (Ref 2). Over the past 100 years, the technology has developed in leaps and bounds to envelop a number of processes, techniques, materials, methods, etc. to make welding almost an indispensable method for manufacturing, repair, and maintenance applications in almost all industries. MMA, which dates back over a hundred years, is still being used and is still one of the most widely used processes in industry today. It is said that, in India, MMA has a share of over 70% and in developed countries it has share of over 40%. It is quite amazing that in this rapidly changing technological world, a welding process like MMA continues to rule the field. It only speaks volumes for the robustness of this technology and its continued development to stay relevant.
As indicated earlier, there is hardly any industry in which welding is not used in some form or other. Original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) use welding extensively for fabricating new equipment, machineries and industries like thermal power plants, hydro power plants, sugar, mining, cement, oil and gas, dredging, fertilisers, steel, railways, refineries, etc. use them for many maintenance applications. This usage includes not only welding but also overlaying, rebuilding, hardfacing and surfacing, etc. which are all different names given to welding based on the application. An article (Ref 3) says:
“No other technique is as widely used by manufacturers to join metals and alloys efficiently and to add value to their products. Most of the familiar objects in modern society, from buildings to bridges to vehicles, computers and medical devices, could not have been produced without the use of welding.”
This vividly brings out the extensive usage of welding across industry. It is worth mentioning here that laser welding is used for the production of cardiac pace makers and ultrasonic welding is extensively used in industries like packaging (hermetic seals for materials that cannot be subjected to high temperatures), medical industry (pipettes, filters, etc.), aerospace and automobile industries.
3.1 Variety of welding processes
Today, welding is not a single process field. There are a number of processes and each one has its own advantages and disadvantages, and is ideal for certain specific applications. Many of these processes are used in various modes like manual, semi-automatic, mechanised, automatic and robotic to suit the process and application requirements.
3.2 Variety of materials
Over the years, materials technology has developed a number of metals, alloys and other materials to suit the ever-growing industry requirements. Materials ranging from simple carbon steels to advanced alloys for nuclear applications and oil and gas industries are available and all of them require welding. Today welding technology has developed many processes and techniques to weld almost all of these materials. As indicated earlier, even non-metals like plastics are welded for many applications.
3.3 Variety of applications
Welding is used in many industries and each industry requires specific and different considerations to produce a successful weld. Applications for welding in industries include welding of cross country pipelines, welding in offshore and onshore conditions, welding in confined spaces, under water welding, welding in a vacuum, explosion welding, robotic welding, nuclear applications, welding in electronic industries, and medical applications, to name a few.
3.4 The major players in the welding field
Welding is a popular method of joining a wide range materials and is used in many industries. Let us now understand the major groups of players in this field and in what way they are related to welding. Table 1, given below, gives some details on this:
DETAILS OF USAGE
|Fabricators, OEMs||Welding for fabricating new equipment, machinery, etc|
|Consumable, equipment manufacturers, automation equipment||Producing consumables, welding machines, and automation set-ups|
|Repair, re-building workshops||Welding for repair and maintenance work|
|Manufacturers of accessories, safety equipment for welding||Manufacture of all accessories, safety gear for various welding processes|
|Educational institutions, colleges, ITI, ATI, VTI both private and GOI||Courses at different levels, including practical, classroom training, coaching, and certification programmes|
Research laboratories (both private and PSUs)
|Research in welding-related topics|
4.0 Image of welding
From the above details, it can be observed that welding has applications spread across industries and can offer opportunities to many who are keen in this field. But then, why is it that many are sceptical about taking up this field as a career option? The reason is basically because of the image of welding. Many feel that welding is not a highly technical job and it is better left to the welder. Some others feel that it is a dirty job and an age old process. Many don’t have a good, detailed and complete idea about this field and try to keep themselves away. But the reality is not so, as can be seen from Table 2. Unfortunately, sufficient effort has not been made in some countries to spread the correct image of welding and the opportunities it provides.
5.0 What are the various career starting points in this field?
Having understood that welding is indeed a field worth considering for a career, let us now focus our attention on the starting points in this field and what they demand from various individuals. Like many other fields, in welding field also, there are many career starting points from where you can start your career. The educational qualifications and skills decide this starting point. Broadly, the various starting points can be summarised as given below in Table 3. For the purpose of our discussions, the various welding personnel have been grouped in to three levels.
The above is only a short list of entry points and, apart from the above, there are many others which are industry-specific.
6.0 Welding education
Though opportunities are there in the welding field, it should be understood that all these exist for the appropriately skilled, qualified, certified persons. We have already seen some of the educational qualification, skill sets required for various groups of welding personnel at the entry level in Table 3. Let us now focus on understanding the welding education system, which can be broadly put in three groups-the welder level, the middle level and the engineer level.
7.0 What about emoluments in this field?
Welding is in no way an inferior field when we talk of payment and, of course, this is true for the right candidate with right qualification and certification in the right industry. Inappropriately qualified or certified candidates cannot hope to get these. Welding, being a specialised field, means that many industries look for appropriate qualifications and certifications at all levels, be it a welder or an engineer or an expert and, many times, this is a mandatory requirement in critical fields like oil and gas, etc.
A website “careersinwelding.com,” indicates a median salary of around USD 50,000 for divers, inspectors, sales representatives and also for senior welders. Another website, “Gowelding.org,” points out that welding is one of the few skills that can earn a six digit salary. As with many other fields, not everyone can expect to reap this benefit but what is important to note here is that the welding field is equally placed with any other engineering field in terms of opportunities, emoluments, etc.
8.0 Future Trends
The future has a lot in store for this field. The past hundred-plus years has seen the development of many processes, equipment, consumables, accessories, techniques, etc. which have enabled the adoption of welding in the manufacture, repair and maintenance of a plethora of plant and machinery. The future will see many innovative techniques in welding and many new materials and components will be welded and repaired using them. Productivity, quality, reliability and safety will assume a lot of importance in the future and all welding methods, processes and techniques may have to incorporate them as a rule. Appropriate qualification and certification of welding personnel at various levels will be the norm in many industries. The demand for qualified, certified and skilled welding personnel will continue to grow at a much faster pace as more and more critical equipment is being fabricated, demanding uncompromising and assured quality first time every time. It is quite possible that, with the continued efforts of many bodies, government agencies, private companies and individuals, the image of welding will become positive, bigger and brighter enough to enable everyone to appreciate the fair, equal career opportunities it provides and induce the younger generation to look at this field as a career option.
Welding is an important and critical activity in many industries. Many surveys project a very good demand for qualified, certified welding personnel at various levels. This field, so far, has not been a favoured field for many, especially the younger generation, although it is on par with many other fields in terms of opportunities, pay and so forth. This is mainly because of the lack of information about the opportunities in this field and many misconceptions. The concerted efforts being made by several agencies should go a long way in removing these and it is hoped that the variety of training, education and certification programmes presently in place for welding personnel at various levels should be able to generate a sufficient number of welding personnel to meet the huge demands of industry.
1. www.welding.com History of welding
2. Svetsaren No 1-2004 Page 33
3. Special report AWS Welding Journal August 99.