The UK media frequently report about the skills shortage in engineering and healthcare, however the shortage of welders is not so prominent in the headlines. Nevertheless, the UK government is acutely aware of this problem, particularly in light of the £600bn worth of new infrastructure projects scheduled for completion by 2028. Both the public and private sectors are putting effort behind resolving the situation such as establishing the Welding Trailblazer Group* and inclusion of welding in the UK Shortage Occupations List. However, there is no simple short-term fix and the problem could be exacerbated depending on impending political decisions.
It would be dangerous to over-simplify the root cause as there are many factors that contribute to this problem. However, one of the issues often quoted is that school pupils are generally not aware of welding. An article in The Telegraph in 2015 quoted a report by insurance group Constructaquote claiming that half of young jobseekers do not even know what welding is or what it entails.
Air Products is one of the many companies striving to overcome this knowledge gap. The company is a key sponsor of Skillweld (the welding related competitive element of WorldSkills UK) aiming to develop and upskill young welders. “We are extremely proud to sponsor Skillweld for the last 20 years and it is impressive to see the quality of the competitors’ work”. Kevin Sherry, Lead Welding Applications Specialist, Air Products.
Clearly, Skillweld is a showcase for students who have chosen a career in welding. However, work is also needed at grass roots level. The Big Bang Fair is the largest celebration of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) for young people in the UK.
On the Air Products’ stand there is always a long queue for the young people to try the welding simulator.
It is clear that all those involved in the fabrication and engineering industries have a responsibility to collaborate and contribute to reduce the skill shortage problem and ensure long-term economic prospects of the UK. Hopefully, we’ll see that many more bright sparks will be encouraged to enter this important career.
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