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Montana welding students ready to fill worker shortage

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Posted at 12:03 PM, Mar 13, 2023

BILLINGS - Many companies are still struggling to fill open positions, including in the trades in Montana.

City College at MSU Billings held a career fair Friday, introducing prospective students to educational and work opportunities.

Some students have learned welding at the Career Center and participated in a welding competition.

Some may choose to continue their education, and others may start working after graduating high school.

Whatever they choose, there is a demand for their welding skills.

"I started welding, last year was my first year and ever since then I fell in love with it," said Jase Roods, a senior at the Career Center.

The goal of the competition is no air leaks.

"Good weld is no leaks," said Timothy Stenson, a welding instructor at City College.

"That's part of the process," said Sam Russell, another City College welding instructor.

Stenson and Russell say the demand for young welders has never been higher.

"The average age of a welder right now is about 62 years old,” Stenson said. “So that tells you, there's going to be a lot of guys retiring. "

According to the American Welding Society, a nationwide welder shortage is expected to hit 375,000 workers this year, and will likely grow to a shortage of 400,000 workers by 2024.

"We're seeing people need workers in the industry,” Russel said. “What you learned in high school, we can take you farther beyond that."

This expo is about encouraging students to continue their training in the trades.

"I get phone calls daily from areas all around Montana saying, we need technicians, we need welders," said Transporation & Welding Department chair Kat Pfau.

Roods won third place in another competition at the welding expo for his railing that will go into a house that Career Center students are building.

He knows he'll have a job whenever he wants one.

"We had a welding inspection company come to the school the other day, and they're guaranteeing $100,000 your first year out,” Roods said. “So looking at that over the college debt, it definitely it's more appealing for sure."

"You're gonna see a lot more younger kids going into the field and be learning and kind of setting the pathway for what the future is going to hold for a lot of this welding industry,” said Mason Cushing, General Distributing outside sales. ”And I think there's a lot can be learned from the older generation right now."