Finding a new path: Welding

As the shortage of skilled welders in New Zealand continues, industry training organisation Competenz has recently completed a feasibility study, in partnership with the welding industry, for a welding-specific pathway.

For those wanting to enter the industry as a welder, the only pathway currently available is by completing a four-year engineering fabrication apprenticeship. However, Competenz’s general manager for learning design and innovation, Pip Walsh, says that these programmes are “not suitable for dedicated welders as they do not require the fabrication knowledge and skills included in the apprenticeship to do their job”.

This has seen Competenz undertake a feasibility study, in partnership with key industry players, into a welding-specific pathway that would ensure graduates have the breadth and depth of welding skills and knowledge needed by the industry.

The study was informed by four key information sources:

  • The results of a member survey undertaken in November 2020 by the Heavy Engineering Research Association (HERA), the industry association for the welding sector;
  • Interviews with six large employers, seven training providers, and the representative from both industry associations – HERA and Steel Construction New Zealand;
  • Letters from Hawke’s Bay businesses in support of the Eastbridge training initiative;
  • Infometrics business and demographic data, and TradeMe Jobs website.

What would the benefits be?

Walsh says that the feedback received shows that while some secondary school students are interested in welding, the lack of New Zealand qualifications has meant welding is not perceived as a legitimate trade or credible career pathway.

“The study shows a strong perception that welding qualifications would provide important underpinning knowledge and practical skills, which equip welders to work more independently and on more complex work, with high-level problem-solving skills,” says Walsh.

“Although a portion of the industry is happy to train their welders themselves, most prefer a model where training providers train people to a level at which they are able to safely and independently perform welding tasks to industry standards, and then further develop their skills on-job to need the particular businesses’ needs.”

And the result of the study?

With the study confirming the need for qualifications at levels 3 and 4, it is hoped that this will soon be possible.

“An application for approval to develop has been submitted to the New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA).”

Did you know?

  • Welding can trace its historical development back to ancient times, with earliest examples of welding from the Bronze Age.
  • During the Iron Age, the Egyptians and people in the eastern Mediterranean area learned to weld pieces of iron together. Many tools were found that were made in approximately 1,000 B.C.
  • Edmund Davy of England is credited with the discovery of acetylene in 1836.
  • In 1890, C.L. Coffin of Detroit was awarded the first US patent for an arc welding process using a metal electrode.