Weld Australia: Country faces significant shortage of qualified welders

Weld Australia CEO Geoff Crittenden shares his opinion on the welding industry in Australia, which he said is facing a significant shortage of qualified and certified welders.

Without action, the nation will be unable to meet future demand on major projects in industries as diverse as defence, shipbuilding, aerospace, infrastructure, rolling stock, and resources.

According to a recent employment outlook survey in Australia, skilled trades workers are scarce – 38 per cent of Australian employers admit that filling job vacancies is increasingly difficult, mainly due to lack of experience (23 per cent), lack of applicants (21 per cent), and lack of skills (2 per cent).

With a projected employment growth rate of 7.2 per cent expected over the next five years for structural steel and welding trade workers, the welding skills shortage is clearly reaching breaking point in Australia.

READ: Raising the standards of Australian welding

This employment growth rate is not surprising given some of the major projects on the horizon. For instance, it is anticipated that the Federal Government’s $90 billion Naval Shipbuilding Program in South Australia will require around 2,600 tradespeople from 2020 to 2027. Almost half of this demand will be for welders.

In addition, Queensland’s welders will need to be properly trained, qualified, certified, and ready to deliver the $5 billion LAND 400 project. This landmark project is an economic game-changer that is expected to create over 450 advanced manufacturing and engineering jobs across the state. With global defence giant Rheinmetall set to establish its Australian headquarters in south-east Queensland, local welders must be trained and qualified according to global best-practice to ensure they can reap the benefits of this huge defence industry program.

This shortage of qualified and certified welders is certainly not the fault of Australian tradesmen. It has been many years since the trades of welder and boilermaker were taught at Australian TAFEs. Instead, they have been replaced by courses such as light and heavy fabrication, in which the welding modules are of varying degrees of complexity, and are usually optional.

So then, what is the solution?

TAFEs and training organisation must look to cutting-edge technology – such as augmented reality – to transform welder training into high-quality interactive experiences that capture the imagination. Plus, the introduction of state-of-the-art training technology must be coupled with an in-depth review of the TAFE welding curriculum, which has not been updated or revised since 1995.

Augmented and virtual reality training systems are student-focused, allowing individual students to progress at their own pace. Welding apprentices learn and understand welding procedures and techniques through a more interactive training method, gaining hands-on experience in a controlled, safe environment.

With zero risks involved, apprentices can respond to realistic scenarios without pressure or fear of injury. Augmented and virtual reality training is enabling future welders to acquire the skills and the self-confidence they need before moving into real-world workshops.

The curriculum delivered at TAFEs around Australia needs to qualify welders to the only industry standard in the world that is accepted in both Europe and America: ISO 9606-1 qualification testing of welders – fusion welding. ISO 9606-1 is the minimum requirement for working on rolling stock, defence and infrastructure projects.

The combination of a welding curriculum based on global best practice delivered via advanced training technology will help ensure a strong supply of capable welders. Without a doubt, the successful implementation of these measures will revolutionise welder training in Australia. It will raise the standard of welder education in Australia exponentially, putting our welder training on par with the best in Europe and America.

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