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Creating a National Workforce of Trained Welders Lincoln Electric Holdings, Inc.

Creating a National Workforce of Trained Welders

Lincoln Electric has partnered with Tooling U-SME to expand its welding education program in order to close the national skills gap in welding.

Years ago, when lean became popular the theory was that if all of those in the manufacturing industry were trained to this high level of continuous improvement, through the Toyota Production System, the entire sector would feel the benefit.

Most in manufacturing today would agree that this training has come to bear fruit.

This same strategy can be applied to training for specific skills as well.

For years Lincoln Electric Holdings, Inc. has been recognized as the gold standard for training those in the welding sector. They have trained 250,000 welders in the past 100 years. And their quest of excellence moved forward in 2018 when they opened a $30 million, 130,000 square foot new Welding Technology and Training Center (Center) in Cleveland, Ohio.

While the company trains for internal use, this new facility is to further its mission to train an entire industry. At last year’s opening CEO Christopher Mapes described the company’s mission. “Our new Center is a strategic investment to help our customers and educational partners grow using leading solutions. Our educational offering and leadership in automation solutions provide meaningful solutions to address the skills gap and capacity constraints facing customers in our industry.”

The capacity strain he is referring to is the fact that the average age of a welding operator is 57. And many of them are about to retire. This will leave a huge gap. In fact, the American Welding Society predicts that there will be a shortage of 450,000 operators by 2020.

Training as many people as quickly as possible is critical.

“The industry now requires more highly-skilled workers than it did in the past as welding has become much more technical and sophisticated,” explained Jason Scales, business manager, education, Lincoln Electric.

To ensure that welders have the skills they need to perform their jobs, the new Center is focusing on training welding educators, engineers and industrial professionals who are advancing welding in schools and industry globally.  The curriculum includes virtual reality and technology-assisted training tools, industry-leading welding and cutting solutions and robotic cells.

This will build upon the company’s U/LINC program that was developed by 35 of the industry’s top welding instructors. It contains more than 18,000 pages of curriculum resources connecting welding theory, practice and knowledge in one place. Subscribers to U/LINC can easily search, download and print out lesson plans, class assignments, presentations, group-based activities and more with in-depth directions, tips and teaching strategies that leverage the company's welding training experience.

To ensure that this program has the furthest possible reach, Lincoln Electric announced in May that is partnering with Tooling U-SME, to administer its U/LINC platform.

Tooling U-SME is well established in the training field as it works with more than half of the Fortune 500 manufacturers, 600 educational institutions and thousands of companies.

 As part of the agreement, new and current U/LINC subscribers will receive additional support services and reporting capabilities and curriculum materials will also be integrated with the industry’s most popular learning management systems, such as Blackboard, Moodle and others. 

“This new partnership builds on more than a decade of collaborating that began with online welding training classes and has now expanded to include a comprehensive set of tools, including lab activities, demo videos, assessments, instructor guides, PowerPoint presentations, and reference documents,” said Chad Schron, the senior director for ToolingU-SME and Co-founder of Tooling U. Chad grew up in manufacturing. He started his career working in his grandfather’s machine shop, Jergens, Inc., and attended his first IMTS show before he graduated from high school. It was while working at Jergens Schron came up with the idea for an online training school to address the issue of the skills shortage.

“The skills shortage is a major issue and is impacting the quality of the work being done in manufacturing,” says Schron. “We are out there in the field every day and are hearing about companies not having talent that is trained in new technology and we see how this is adversely affecting the work. Even safety can become an issue.”

While Lincoln Electric and Tooling U feel that the new Center can go a long way toward providing the training, they are still working bringing in the number of workers that they will need in the future.

Shales is finding that many people have expanded their view of the field and are entering it for a variety of reasons. “While the perception is often that manufacturing isn’t a cool place, I’m seeing students who are in their late 20s and have received a college degree but couldn’t find a job that provided them a livable wage. Or those that found out that didn’t really like sitting behind a desk. So, they come to manufacturing and welding, get the skills necessary, find a job quickly and enjoy the field.”

Schron said that new entrants into the field are reporting a high level of satisfaction. One reason might be is due to the many opportunities the field provides.

“Looking at the millennial population that likes variety and room for advancement, at our company we have a lot of different operations and encourage employees to move around the company and increase their skills,” said Scales.

Understanding how to work well with Millennials is a top priority for  Tooling U-SME and they recently issued a report about the subject. 

They offered seven tips for working with this age group:

Don’t Generalize

Like all generations from Boomers to the newest Generation K (as in the Hunger Game’s Katniss Everdeen), this broad swathe of workers is made of up individuals with different life experiences.

Communicate Your Corporate Mission

Millennials expect companies to demonstrate a strong sense of purpose and want to be part of that. Be sure to communicate your mission and show how each individual job ties to it. Allow them to see how their talents and skills fit into the big picture.

Show Them Their Future

 Millennials want to see their (near) future. Provide room for growth within your company so they do not feel they need to grow somewhere else. Institute clear steps that young employees can take to develop skills they might need for future positions within your organization

Provide Continual Learning Opportunities

 Millennials have a strong desire to learn and acknowledge they have things to learn. Pair millennial employees with your own organization mentors or those outside of the company.

Go Digital

 Much hiring and training can now be done digitally through tablets and smartphone. Online courses allow workers the flexibility to complete training at any time of the day or night.

Allow Them to Share Their Ideas

Only 28% of millennials feel that their current organization is making full use of their skills to provide them the opportunity to show what they can do. Arrange for dynamic brainstorming sessions allowing all employees to contribute ideas.

Provide Regular and Immediate Feedback

 Millennials grew up with constant feedback from their parents, teachers and coaches. They expect it from you, their leader. Just five minutes of clear, direct feedback on a regular basis, will keep them motivated and engaged.

Beyond millennials, Lincoln is looking to the future workforce. “By 2025 there will be a 25% reduction in students attending college, university and trade schools,” says Scales.  His company is seeking out additional solutions to stay viable.

Staying relevant has always been the mission of Lincoln Electric and education has always been the key to doing that. Through the Center, and other methods that are yet to be created, the company and its partners, such as Tooling U-SME, are creating that future class of well-trained welders that will ensure a continued bright future for manufacturing.

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