HILO — Metal melted and sparks flew this summer at Hawai’i Community College’s welding facility as instructors from around the state and from the mainland convened for a “WeldEd” workshop in Hilo.
The instructors, from as close to home as Hilo and as far away as Ohio, attended the weeklong professional development workshop organized by the National Center for Welding Education and Training, better known as WeldEd.
WeldEd’s mission is to expand the number of high-skilled welding technicians as the country faces a major shortfall in the next several years. Jeffery Lane, an assistant professor of welding at Honolulu Community College, said the skilled workforce shortage in welding between now and 2019 is estimated at 308,000 workers.
“So what we’re trying to do with these modules is train the instructors so they can train the students and get them into this line of work,” said Lane, who is the regional representative for WeldEd and organized the workshop. “A lot of the shortfall is because baby boomers are retiring.”
Growth in wind and solar energy development, plus the boom in shale gas, has added to the demand for welders, said Lane, and that demand has helped increase the estimated shortage of technicians. In addition, some manufacturing is returning to the United States after outsourcing, said Lane.
There were nearly 20 instructors participating in the Hilo workshop, brushing up on their knowledge of weld quality and inspection, welding codes, specifications and safety.
Five of the WeldEd participants are from O’ahu, seven are from the Big Island, one is from Ohio, three are from California, one is from Washington State and the instructor is from North Dakota.
The University of Hawai’i system was well respresented in the group: Five of the participants were from Hawai’i Community College and the Construction Academy program that Hawai’i CC administers at 10 high schools on the Big Island. Another three participants were from Honolulu CC and a fourth was from Honolulu CC’s Construction Academy.
This was the first WeldEd workshop in Hilo. Lane hopes it won’t be the last.
“We want to come back here next year,” he said.