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Question
Hi,

I have a few questions. Basically, I'm 40 and have so far only really done low-paid white-collar jobs. After recovery from a long illness I am thinking of retraining as a welder in Austria as it is a very responsible, interesting job that pays well.

1) What is the real job outlook for welders? I am getting conflicting reports with some saying that welding is  all becoming automated and that job prospects are dire etc., while others state that it is a booming career with lots of opportunities and solid job-security and certainty of getting an employer after training ends.

2) I am slightly short-sighted(-2.5 in each eye), and read without glasses etc.. Would that be an issue re finding welding work?

3) I read somewhere that there are 2 different ways to learn welding, one which lasts 2 years and is pretty comprehensive or another path wherein one just does 1 or 2 semesters. What would you recommend and does the latter approach seriously harm the chance of gaining employment?

Any answers and further advice/info appreciated,
Thanks,
Edward

Answer
Your age doesn't preclude you from being a welder, but it may limit your preference for certain kinds of welding.
The more strenuous types of field welding, such as ship building, pipe-fitting, or structural steel, can be physically hard for the middle aged.
I am 47 and have no interest in field welding anymore.
I have switched into being an inspector for my job, and I teach TIG welding on weekends for fun.

Nearsighted is good for welding.
I have near perfect far vision but now I have to wear reading glasses for TIG welding.

There is no shortage of welding jobs that I know of, but I don't know Austria.
The overall shortage is in jobs for old fashioned welders.

The welders that industry wants are smart, are not afraid of computers and can read a welding procedure and make sense of it.

Steels are getting more and more complex. This is not going to reverse itself.
These new steels require special welding procedures to take advantage of their greater strength without cracking. The welders of tomorrow need to be willing to log into a computer and print out a weld procedure, read the procedure and be able to follow it, decipher an engineers drawing and apply it to their work.
The days of "dumb" welders is going away.
This is especially true if you go into high tech welding such as aerospace or medical equipment.
Robotic welding is all well and good for factories, but field welding is not going away any time soon.
I deal with field welders every day and the ones who understand procedures are so much easier to work with.

If just want a job welding, then it only takes about 4 months of training to get you to where you can run a weld bead that doesn't break, but if you want a career in welding long term, learn how to read drawings, engineers specifications and weld procedures.
Learn the most common welding codes, in a general sense.

Most importantly learn about being a "Fabricator" not a "welder".

Welders just run beads, Fabricators build stuff.
You have to learn about cutting feeds and speeds for different processes and materials, how to use press brakes, ironworkers, punches, notchers, drill presses, Milling machines and lathes.
Learn a little about metallurgy so you understand how heat affects different steels.
How to lay out precise hole locations and cut lines, and how to curve bars and tubing in rollers and benders.
I learned blacksmithing when I was 14, but I also love technology.
My favorite welding machines are fully digital inverter TIG machines with pulsers and sequencers.

As long as you know enough to be useful, you will always have a job.
The more you know sets your pay scale.  

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Ernie Leimkuhler

Expertise

Questions about Oxy-Acetylene welding/cutting, MIG, TIG, Flux-core, Stick welding, brazing and soldering, bike frames, air frames, motorcycle frames, structural welding. Also questions about Welding Certifications and Inspections. All questions about fabrication of metals (stainless steel, steel , aluminum, brass, bronze, copper). Basic questions about underwater welding. TIG is my strongest subject.

Experience

Extensive background in most welding fields. 18 years fabrication of metal theatre scenery, 16 years structural steel, 2 years pipe welding, 9 years as a Welding Instructor at South Seattle Community College, and 5.5 years as a Welding Instructor at the Divers Institute of Technology. 16 years Industrial Welding Consultant for fabrication shops in the greater Seattle Area. 11 years Architectural Metal Fabrication. 8 years in Film/TV; SPFX/construction/set-deco/props/. 33 years Blacksmithing and Knifemaking. Currently a Field Welding Inspector for Otto Rosenau and Associates.

Organizations
American Welding Society - Certified Welding Inspector Washington Assoc of Building Officials (WABO) - Special Inspector - Structural and Reinforcing Steel.

Publications
Do a search on google groups for "Ernie Leimkuhler" in the rec.crafts.metalworking and sci.engr.joining.welding groups. http://www.stagesmith.com/ http://www.metalwebnews.com/ Blacksmith's Gazzette - Anvil Making

Education/Credentials
BA Theatre Technology - Purdue University.

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