Plainfield resident Ryan Kocka enjoys fabricating scrap metal as practice at a local trade school, knowing it will give him the skills needed for a high-demand industry.
The 20-year-old student at Illinois Welding School in Romeoville wasn’t interested in the work when he graduated high school, but he took a semester of welding at Joliet Junior College and found his calling.
Greg Foster, an associate welding professor at Joliet Junior College, said the high demand for welding is primarily because of attrition.
“The average age of the welder is about 60 years old in the country,” Foster said. “For the past five years, baby boomers that have held those jobs for so many years are retiring. And it has created a gap.”
Welding is just one of several manufacturing jobs in demand the past five years, said Nancy Ammer, chief executive officer of the Grundy Economic Development Council.
“There are a lot of things that have driven a resurgence,” Ammer said. “A lot of people with quality jobs and skills are getting to retirement age. The educational community has been responding.”
Opportunities abound one of the educational institutions Ammer touted was the Grundy Area Vocational Center, which has a welding program.
Jim Cebulski, a high school teacher at the vocational center, said he teaches welding and helps get students into union trades.
“The shortage has been for about five years,” he said. “The phone has been ringing 200 to 300 percent more, really in the last two years for welders.”
Cebulski said recent welding graduates who hone their trade aren’t having trouble finding basic welding work.
“On the high school end of it, they want to discover it because it looks cool and exciting,” he said.