Employment of welding, soldering, and brazing workers is expected to grow more slowly than average for all occupations over the 2004-14 period. Despite this, job prospects should be excellent as employers report difficulty finding enough qualified people. In addition, many openings are expected to arise as a large number of workers retire over the next decade.
The major factor affecting employment of welders is the health of the industries in which they work. The manufacturing sector, which employs the most welding, soldering, and brazing workers, is expected to continue to decline as more manufacturing moves overseas. Because almost every manufacturing industry uses welding at some stage of manufacturing or in the repair and maintenance of equipment, this overall decline will affect the demand for welders, although some industries will fare better than others. The construction industry is expected to have solid growth over the next decade and an increasing demand for welders. Government funding for shipbuilding as well as for infrastructure repairs and improvements are expected to generate additional welding jobs.
Pressures to improve productivity and hold down labor costs are leading many companies to invest more in automation, especially computer-controlled and robotically controlled welding machinery. This will reduce the demand for some welders, solderers, and brazers because many repetitive jobs are being automated. The growing use of automation, however, should increase demand for welding, soldering, and brazing machine setters, operators, and tenders. Welders working on construction projects or in equipment repair will not be affected by technology change to the same extent, because their jobs are often unique and not as easily automated.
Despite slower-than-average job growth, technology is creating more uses for welding in the workplace and expanding employment opportunities. For example, new ways are being developed to bond dissimilar materials and nonmetallic materials, such as plastics, composites, and new alloys. Also, laser beam and electron beam welding, new fluxes, and other new technologies and techniques are improving the results of welding, making it useful in a wider assortment of applications. Improvements in technology have also boosted welding productivity, making welding more competitive with other methods of joining materials.