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Many U.S. industries are struggling as there are simply not enough experienced workers to go around.

With the loss of expertise and knowledge that has accompanied the retirement of so many of the baby-boomer generation; today’s organizations are struggling to fill the gaps in their workforce. The welding industry is no different. According to the American Welding Society, the welding shortage will reach a deficit of 400,000 workers by 2024. Older welders are reaching retirement age, and younger welders aren’t replacing them fast enough. In fact, the average age of a welder is 55, and fewer than 20 percent are under the age of 35.

All too often, companies don’t make training a priority. They think that it’s too expensive and that they have to dedicate a large amount of time and resources into building a training program. As a result, training programs are cut or reduced when there is a downturn in the economy or slow down and they get placed on the “we’ll get to it later” list.

So why invest in welder training? First, it is the experience of the author that a competitively paid, highly trained workforce will assist in retaining employees. Studies show that employees that feel engaged are excited about their future and continued growth. While this may seem like a long-term strategy, employers will see immediate benefits. Engaged employees have an increased level of productivity. In fact, highly engaged employees are 38% more likely to have above average productivity.

Second, engaged employees bring new ideas to the table. When employees feel they are part of the team and success of the company, they are prone to share it with the team. This could be changes to a process or it may even put items on a “stop doing” list. While this all sounds good where does a company start?

1. Get your leaders involved

It starts with your CEO. If your CEO values training, the rest of the leadership team will follow. Find leaders in your company who have specific interest or expertise and work with them on becoming a training leader. For the purpose of this article consider designating a supervisor or other management staff to become a certified welding supervisor. This is a program offered by the American Welding Society and specifically addresses the economics of welding.

2. Designate a training area

It doesn’t have to be the fanciest place, but one where employees can engage and connect while learning.

3. Find the pain points and create training to address them

Having training just for training’s sake doesn’t help anyone and will only frustrate employees and leaders alike. Make sure learning has an impact on the company's bottom line and ties in with current gaps in the organization or team.

4. Set learning goals and make it a part of your review process

By encouraging leaders to hold their team accountable to their own learning and growth, you set the standard that your company values training. Create a section on your review form where learning is discussed or goals created. Then train your leaders about how to facilitate this conversation.

5. Invest in others

Even if you don't have the funds or scope to create an internal training program, send others to various events where learning happens. The American Welding Society has an array of educational resources at very reasonable prices. Ask attendees to bring back their key findings to share with the team.

No company is too small or too large for effective training. Creating a culture that supports training and development of employees takes a lot of hard work, but will have a positive impact on a company’s bottom line by reducing manufacturing cost and retaining important customers.

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