Welding is the process of joining pieces of metal together by melting each part and using a filler to form a joint. Welding can be carried out in several different ways: by using a gas flame, a laser, an electric arc, or even ultrasound.
Welding has actually been around for many centuries. Until recently, welding was done at a forge – a smith would heat up the two pieces of metal, then hammer them together. It wasn’t until the beginning of the 20th century that people began to use the welding equipment that we’re so accustomed to today.
Modern welding processes include arc welding, which uses an electrical current; gas welding, which is used on delicate materials that can’t withstand very high temperatures and resistance welding, which uses extra sheets of metal to encase the pieces that need welded together.
Careers in Welding
Skilled welders are in high demand at the moment. Working as a welder is a satisfying job. A skilled welder can work in manufacturing or construction, and has the opportunity to work on local projects, spend some time offshore, or even head overseas for a while.
Welding is a broad field, and there’s always something new to learn. As a trainee welder, you would probably start out with “stick welding”. Once you have an understanding of basic welds, and how to work with various metals, you would then have the opportunity to progress to other processes, such as plasma cutting, MIG welding, or computer aided welding. You will learn how to use several different kinds of welding equipment, and also train in other parts of the business – perhaps learning management skills, or taking technical or engineering qualifications.
There are a lot of companies that are promoting quick and easy welding qualifications at the moment. These qualifications probably will teach you how to use welding equipment well enough to make yourself a fancy new iron gate, or do some bodywork for your car, but they aren’t likely to be enough to get you a good job in the industry.
There are only a handful of examining bodies that run courses which are respected in the welding industry. If your qualification wasn’t given to you by one of those bodies, then it is, quite literally, not worth the paper it’s written on. The best course for a novice welder to take would be one of the Cities and Guilds introductory courses, or, perhaps an NVQ in Fabrication, or a course ran by the ETB.
Working offshore, or overseas, might sound glamorous, but you should be aware that it is not always as fun as it sounds. Offshore work can be difficult and strenuous, and can involve long hours. Overseas work can be equally demanding, and the accommodation arranged by your employer might not be as luxurious as you are accustomed to.
With that said, you will have some opportunity to see the countries that you are working in, and if you work long hours then you won’t have much opportunity to spend your pay. Many young welders use their overseas postings as an opportunity to save some money for a deposit on a house, so when they’re ready to settle down and work in less demanding jobs, they have a nice nest-egg saved up.
Amy changed vocations a few years ago, after working in careers. She is still interested in sharing her industry knowledge.