It seems everybody’s a welder these days. We know two guys in Montana who decided to build a table with wood and metal, and they call themselves welders.
If you’ve kept up with the economy in the last 20 years, you’d see that the number of total welders has gone down. There were 570,000 welders in the U.S. in 1988. By 2014, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported there were 397,900.
What we see isn’t a lack of welders, though. We see a lack of skilled welders.
And that’s a shame. There are so many skilled, competent welders out there, and we want them to find good work. Welding schools like Hobart are pumping out some of the most capable young workers in the country, and then there are uncertified workers running rampant.
For example, a certain welding company had to lay off an employee for failing a drug test. That employee went and started a fabrication company. He moonlights and works on sites based off his experience, and when he says “he’s certified”, the contractor will let him go to work. It happens all the time.
Good for that person, for landing on their feet. And if they want to weld knickknacks and decorative items, that’s fine. But would you trust them with installing a stair railing? Or a balcony railing?
We hope not.
The immediate thing that distinguishes a competent welder from the rest is the certification.
And certified doesn’t mean “they’ve welded something before”. See, welding has so many facets. You can be certified to weld certain materials, different levels of thickness, within particular processes. Each of these carries different certifications.
Even beyond that, you get different codes for different projects. Working on a high rise will have different specifications than working on a pressure vessel.
So, when choosing your welder, here’s what you should look for:
- The work being performed must be qualified
- The certification test must reflect the work being performed
- The welder must stay within the limitations of the work they got certified for
One of the main organizations for certifications is the American Welding Society. They offer tests for a whole range of skills. These tests can be quite difficult, so a certification from AWS would put your welder in pretty good standing.
These tests have to be heavily scrutinized, because if a mistake happens on the site, the blame would go back to the test supervisor. So it’s reassuring that they’re strict on who they pass.
Outside the AWS are other certification companies. WABO, which is Washington’s organization for enforcing construction codes, offers their Welder Certification Program and is well-recognized throughout the state.
You’ll want to do your due diligence before your next contract. For any questions about welding certifications—whether you’re vetting your next contractor or interested in obtaining certification—then let us know.