It will showcase the latest in Lincoln’s training line
likely to be found at public and private welding schools
at the high school, community college, and technical college level, most prominently the virtual reality simulator
VRTEX 360 and the performance-tracking REALWELD
welding training system, as well as newer machines used
professionally, including the Power Wave S350 Advanced
Process Welder and Aspect 375 AC/DC TIG Welder.
With all the equipment advantages, and as enjoyable
as the completely finished building will be, churning out
a new group of entry-level welders is not the end game,
but merely the opening move.
“Our job here isn’t to compete with our friends at the
community college level,” Scales says emphatically. “They
provide a great service for students, a lot of training,
[associates of arts] degrees.
“What our job here is to become a train-the-trainer
facility, and we will also do applied research and share
that information with [educators] so they can train stu-
dents better to meet the industry needs of their local
area or on a national basis.”
He adds that the school may only graduate 200 basic
welders a year, though they are more valuable to the
industry while learning than doing.
“The information we glean from those 200 students,
we’re going to share with the masses,” Scales says.
Flex space in the advanced lab area could also fit the
latest in robotic welders, so a company can book time
to try out the latest in that specialty.
This means, if John Deere’s fabricators have to learn
a complex welding technique for a new tractor chassis,
for example, the manager can come to the campus for
a few days and pick up the best methodologies to bring
back to the factory.
It’s hard not to be impressed by the model, and to
trust that Lincoln Electric knows what it’s doing when
it comes to people. They have been way ahead on a
number of worker-friendly initiatives, from being at the
forefront of training women and minorities prior to World
War II, to giving employees profit-sharing bonuses since
the 1930s, to now going into their 70th consecutive
PARENTS JUST DON’T UNDERSTAND
This resource couldn’t come at a more critical time
for this industry. According to the Economics Public Institute, 52% of teenagers surveyed say they have no
interest in manufacturing. Left unchecked, this could
become a 2 million person problem by 2025, according
to Deloitte’s now infamous prediction.
In this industry specifically, an American Welding Society study from 2015
indicated there could be a deficit of
290,000 workers by 2020.
“Part of that study was to try to figure
out who the influencers were of stu-
dents,” says Patrick Henry, corporate
director of education services for the
AWS. “Parents and instructors are the
number one and two influencers.”
A 2016 SME survey showed that
20% of parents surveyed view manu-
facturing as an outdated and/or dirty
work environment, and a quarter
thought manufacturing didn’t pay well.
This latter point, of course, is demon-
strably false. For a half-year of training
at a technical or community college, the median salary
in the welding industry alone falls in the mid-$40,000
range. And there is endless opportunity for advancement
“I have met welders who make six figures easily because
they are willing to travel outside of their normal comfort
zones,” Henry says. “There is a lot of opportunity for those
individuals. Those traveling up to North Dakota to work
on a pipeline make very good money, and they are not
saddled with some of the same kind of debt that their
peers incur going to college and not finding jobs after.”
So it makes absolute financial sense for parents to
encourage their offspring to at least consider a welding
career if they are uncertain about their future.
The issue, however, may not be just getting kids into
the welding booths, but keeping them there. Bad experience early on in trade school with inexperienced or
ineffective instructors can dash the ambitions of even
the most enthusiastic student.
That’s why one of the core efforts at Lincoln’s new cen-
ter will be training the trainers, who will go forth to evangelize the profession at every level and for every learner.
“Being an expert in the field doesn’t mean you’re
an expert in transferring that knowledge,” Lincoln
Electric’s Scales says. “Typically people try to teach
the way they learn.”
Some students might be auditory learners, others
visual or kinesthetic, he notes. However they learn, he
just wants each student to have that “aha” moment,
when they finally “get it.”
“Three weeks in a booth, they’re not laying down a
good weld, then all of a sudden they get the right angle
and travel speed,” he says.
Scales believes Lincoln’s training tech and insights
will provide to welding teachers will elicit quicker “ahas”
across schools and plants, up on skyscrapers, and maybe
someday inside hyperloop tunnels.
RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARC
As Scales mentioned, the essence of welding comes
down to finding the best travel speed and angle of ap-
proach. The school will not stray from that in practice
or in principle.
“We want to increase the efficiency of the learning pro-
cess,” explains Jason Schmidt, Lincoln Electric’s manager
of technical services. “How do we do it in a more efficient
way and do it faster, as well as having the students being
able to pass qualifications and certifications faster?”
The solutions also won’t be a panacea for every ap-
plication, and won’t just come from Lincoln’s insights
from students from its past and future classes. The many
educators and professionals who will come through will
Welding technology is gradually evolving
into robotic and additive manufacturing
applications, but they will still need skilled
welders to program them.
The VRTEX 360 can be
positioned to simulate many
types of weld in the feld.