More than 50% of products made across the United States require welding. Though it might seem like the welding industry is dying out, there are still plenty of young people excited about breaking into this difficult but lucrative industry.
According to Minot Daily News, a high school team in North Dakota recently showcased their welding and fabrication skills at the National Skills USA Leadership and Skills Competition.
Austin Guderjahn, Trey Pellett, and Gage Jaeger are three of the top welders in the country at the moment and they are still in high school. These 2018 Minot High School graduates finished fifth out of 39 teams at the 55th annual national competition held in Louisville, Kentucky.
“This was the first time I took a group, said team advisor Ray Helseth, a Minot High welding technology instructor. “Some of the people there had been there three times.”
During the competition, each team was required to build a wood-fired rocket stove out of new plate steel, stainless steel, and tubing. The stoves would then be donated to the organization WaterStep, which helps provide safe drinking water at sites around the world, and sent to Africa.
The welding students utilized four different welding techniques including flux cored welding, gas tungsten arc welding, shielded metal arc welding, and gas metal arc welding. They used an oxygen-acetylene torch to cut the materials. The students had to develop their own blueprints for their final welding projects, as well.
Guderjahn, Jaeger, and Pellett all are planning to use their welding skills in their future careers.
The welding sector does much more than produce rocket stoves. According to CBC News, welding careers can even bring people underwater.
Though underwater welding is one of the most dangerous jobs in the world, for those that love welding, it can be a rewarding, interesting, and exciting career.
For instance, to avoid detection by sonar, underwater submarines must operate at least 328 feet below the Sonic Layer Depth, which means they need to be made of a metal with high yield strength — that’s where underwater welding comes in.
Dewald Venter has been a commercial underwater welder for more than 10 years. During that time, he has punched sharks in the face, welded countless of difficult-to-reach products, and was nearly blown up by hydrogen bubbles. Despite all the risks and difficulties, there is no other career in the world that he would rather pursue.
“Even if I won the lottery, I’d still be doing this,” said Venter, who earns more than $500,000 a year inspecting offshore rigs. “This industry is not for the weak. Even if you do manage to pass the training, the industry will sort you out really, really fast.”
Basic training to become a professional underwater diver takes months and costs around $40,000. Venter believes that over the last 10 years, he spent roughly $250,000 on various underwater welding certifications — and that doesn’t include the thousands of dollars of equipment he punched during that time.
The underwater welding equipment Venter uses shoots electricity to melt metal at temperatures up to 9,932 degrees Fahrenheit.
“It melts steel like butter,” he said. “You can melt steel in a matter of seconds.”
Whether it’s national competitions at the high school level or dangerous underwater tasks, welding is an essential part of life and is not going away.
“To build anything,” Jaeger adds, “you’ve got to use welding.”