I came across a couple of interesting articles about the outlook for welders in Illinois. According to a summary of the Daily Herald Business Ledger Newsmakers’ Forum on Manufacturing and International Business last month, manufacturing in Illinois and the nation has been growing at a pace that has helped pull the economy out of recession. It was noted that three drivers have been key in the industry’s renewed growth: people, processes, and technology, including growth with “leaner” methods. According to Michael Massaro of the accounting firm Porte Brown, “What we’re really seeing is that while manufacturers are doing better, they’re doing it with less.”

David Boulay, president of the Illinois Manufacturing Excellence Center in Peoria, said Illinois plays a key role in the global marketplace, comparing Illinois manufacturing to a well-balanced mutual fund with a very diverse number of products being produced locally. “If it were your retirement mutual fund, you’d be really happy with the diversification that you see. It’s a very impressive pie chart with not one industry being dominant.”

Rockford is an example of a city undergoing renewed growth. According to that city’s WREX-TV, there have been 150 welding jobs open in the region since September and many more are expected. While technology is using more robotics to perform certain welding skills, the need for actual human hands to weld is still present.

In Illinois, the average age of a welder is 58. Experts say the need for welders will continue to grow for two reasons: older workers will retire, and manufacturing activity will continue to grow.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that an additional 50,000 welding positions will be added nationwide between 2010 and 2020. That is good news indeed for welders who start out around $14 per hour but can make as much as $40 to $50/hour.

Finally, back at the Newmakers’ Forum, it was determined that a skills gap remains and said more needs to be done both by manufacturers and local colleges and universities to provide training and eliminate the “dark and dirty” perception some may still have of manufacturing jobs.

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