AWS Leverages Innovation Grant to Power Technical Leap

It’s no secret that there is a skills gap affecting the welding industry. Projections estimate that hundreds of thousands of jobs will be left unfilled due to a lack of skilled laborers. These numbers beg the question, “How can this be fixed?”

Is reaching out to students and facilitating their introduction to welding the answer? If it is, how should that be done? Should it be primarily through interaction with high schools and technical colleges? Should there be money invested to further student education and research? The American Welding Society (AWS) answer to these questions has been, “Why not both?”

The AWS SENSE program offers a comprehensive set of minimum standards and guidelines for welding education programs. The goal of these standards and guidelines is to help training and education organizations secure federal Perkins funding and ensure they deliver a consistent level of education. AWS also offers scholarships, with more than $7 million awarded to students since 1991. There are even research fellowships available to further university-level analysis of welding topics.

Why mention all of this? Well, the problem isn’t limited to students alone. There is also a shortage of credentialed teachers in welding education, further complicating things. Because of this shortage, many schools use industry experts as faculty. While industry experts may know the material thoroughly, that does not mean they are equally competent in effective instruction techniques. The National Network recently awarded AWS an Innovation Grant to help close this instructor skills gap.

AWS is using the grant money to develop a video workshop series for welding instructors. This video workshop will be based on classroom training material developed by Weld-Ed, an AWS partner. Weld-Ed, the National Center for Welding Education and Training, is a dynamic partnership among business and industry, community and technical colleges, universities, AWS and government entities. The center operates through funding support from the National Science Foundation. Weld-Ed has offered an in-person classroom version of their instructor training since 2013 to over 100 educators.

The Instructional Design & Teaching Strategies for Welding Instruction course covers a wide range of topics related to effective teaching. Some of the topics include:

  • Development of a welding program
  • Needs assessment
  • Curriculum development
  • Learning theory
  • Teaching methods
  • Learning styles

It’s important to note that, in post-training surveys, 100 percent of instructors agreed or strongly agreed that this training increased their knowledge of the topic, increased their preparedness to teach concepts and that they would implement some of the teaching strategies learned in the course. AWS and Weld-Ed are widely recognized by existing welding programs. This video course could have an immediate impact on the industry. Educators are usually busy people. Perhaps you are an educator and don’t have time to go to an extended in-person training session. The video course will allow you to hone your teaching skills in the comfort of your own home, whenever you have some free time.

All of this comes back to the welding student. AWS hopes that, through the varied options listed above, welding education becomes both easier to access and more effective once the student is in the classroom. Stay tuned for the official release of the new video course!