Now is a great time to be a welder at Siemens MobilityRecently, Gary Konarska, Executive Director and CEO of the American Welding Society (AWS), visited and toured Siemens Mobility’s Sacramento Rolling Stock manufacturing facility. This was a particularly timely visit and a chance for both AWS and Siemens Mobility to discuss a pressing issue: the urgent need for more welders at Siemens Mobility’s plant in Sacramento and how AWS and Siemens Mobility can better work together to ensure that welders in the area (and around the country) are aware of the career opportunities for welding right now at the company.
We took this opportunity to talk to Gary Konarska about the state of Welding in America these days. We also spoke with our own Mark Bennett, Vice President of Operations in Sacramento, who explained more about the current jobs available at the facility, and why now is a great time to be a welder at Siemens.
Q&A with Gary Konarska, Executive Director and CEO of the American Welding Society, on the state of welding in America today.
The American Welding Society is the worldwide authority in the development of standards, certifications and educational programming for the welding community. They are committed to connecting the welding industry to an extensive collection of resources and developing the next generation of welding professionals.
Q: What is the market like now for welders? Is this a good field to be working in these days?
A: The market for welders is very strong and has been for some time. There has been continued high demand for people to join the welding industry for decades. If young people, or those looking for a new career path, are trying to find a skilled trade that will provide stability and lifelong learning opportunities, becoming a welder is a tremendous choice for anyone.
Q: We typically think of welding jobs for construction and infrastructure projects. But can you talk about where welding plays an important part of many manufacturing industries (like trains!)
A: It is estimated that more than 50% of the US gross national product is affected by welding in some capacity. In the transportation space, the automotive industry is very commonly cited for being a high-volume user of welding products, but other areas of transportation, such as manufacturing locomotives and train cars require a ton of welding as well. Welding is also common in the Aerospace industry and in general manufacturing.
Q: How has the job of welder evolved over the past few decades?
A: Welding is still viewed as a traditional industry that is slow to change. As welding processes have become more efficient and the technology more advanced, welders have had to adapt their skills that may have focused primarily on SMAW (stick welding) to more semi-automatic wire feed processes, such as GMAW (MIG welding). Further, the equipment has become more advanced using inverter technology to reduce energy consumption, and software to drive the welding characteristics. Also, the use of automation is rapidly increasing in adoption, most commonly adding a GMAW welding process to a robot. I like to say that it is easy to train a welder to program a robot, but extremely difficult to train a robot programmer to know how to weld.
Q: In today’s business environment, when everything is becoming more computerized and digitalized, does welding make sense as a career?
A: Absolutely. Welding has come a long way from the dirty, dull, and dangerous image that it may still have. For example, many of the major welding equipment manufacturers make equipment that reduces or nearly eliminates spatter (nuisance droplets of weld metal that splash near the weld). Other technologies, such as Welding Helmet PAPR (Powered Air Purifying Respirator) increase the comfort level of the welders. Finally, as more welds become automated, it still requires welders to program the automation to ensure weld quality. These are just a few examples of how the computerization and digitization is also happening in the welding industry.
Q: What kind of people are well-suited for welding?
A: Anyone and everyone with a positive, can-do attitude is well-suited for welding. There is a learning curve to go from an introductory welder to a qualified welder, but the steps along the way are extremely rewarding. And if a person has aspirations to grow from being a welder to having more opportunity, the American Welding Society offers the Certified Welding Inspector (CWI) program, which is an achievable next step for those that want to apply all they learn while being a welder to the quality assurance process.
Q&A: Mark Bennet, Vice President, Operations, for Siemens Mobility Rolling Stock, on the opportunities for welding that currently exist at the Sacramento manufacturing facility.
Mark currently overseas the operations of Siemens Mobility’s rail vehicles for the North American market, including locomotives, passenger cars, trainsets, light rail vehicles and streetcars.
Q: Your Sacramento manufacturing has a lot of open positions right now for welders (currently 100+). Why is that?
A: We’re proud that we’ve built a strong reputation in the industry for manufacturing high quality cars. This has led to significant growth in our business and the related challenge in recruiting enough welders to fill our need. We currently have over 300 welders on staff and need more. Sacramento is not a major industrial center, so the supply of qualified welders is somewhat limited to begin with. We work very closely with the welding programs at area technical colleges and a significant portion of new hires come from these schools; we continue to recruit experienced welders as well and even offer relocation incentives, we have also moved toward in-house training of non-welders from scratch; and of course, the current covid situation has further hampered recruiting efforts, especially with the closure of welding schools over the past year.
Q: What kinds of welding takes place at your Sacramento plant?
A: Most welding is MIG. We have multiple product lines that require different welding processes. We produce light rail and locomotive carshells in carbon steel, bogie frames in carbon steel, and coach car shells in stainless steel. Materials vary from 20 gauge to 1 inch thick material requiring multiple pass welds. Because these vehicles ultimately carry passengers, we must adhere to strict quality standards. We work within both AWS and DIN standards.
Q: Why is working in your large, manufacturing facility – as opposed to a short-term construction project -- a great opportunity for welders?
A: Our welders take enormous pride in building trains, which they know will transport millions of people around the country. On a more practical side, they find that working in a manufacturing facility offers a level of stability and growth that many short-term construction jobs lack. Our work is not seasonal, we have a backlog of work for years to come. Workers can count on long-term stable employment. All work is indoors, no rain days or working outside in cold weather. And you will continue to grow and develop over your years of employment with Siemens
Q: What kind of welder would thrive in your manufacturing environment?
A: Welding can be a great career at Siemens. If you’re someone who wants to continue to improve and learn -- maybe even teach and lead other welders on projects -- then working for us could be a great fit! We’re willing to invest in continuous training and give welders an opportunity to learn and work on different types of projects and materials. For those who are real leaders, there are always opportunities to progress into team leader and supervisor roles.
In other words, if you’re looking for a long-term, stable career opportunity as a welder, then we encourage you to join us!