MIDDLEBURG HEIGHTS, Ohio — Right now OhioMeansJobs has more than 250 open positions listed for welders in the greater Cleveland area. The job is a skilled labor position that is facing a major shortage.
The growing need is partly due to Baby Boomers retiring from their long-tenured positions, leaving spaces to fill.
A career center in Middleburg Heights is doing its part to help fill the industry demand.
The center offers a two-year program to high school juniors and seniors within Berea, Brook Park, Brooklyn, Fairview Park, Middleburg Heights, North Olmsted, Olmsted Falls, Olmsted Township and Strongsville schools districts. Currently, both the junior and senior programs are full.
"To see every booth being utilized, to see people take initiative and motivate themselves to pursue a career in welding, it's a great thing," said instructor Julio Martinez.
Martinez has been teaching the welding program at Polaris Career Center for the past six years. The 22-year welding professional said he certainly understands the industry is in need of skilled welders.
“We get emails every day of employers needing welders," he said. "Phone calls, emails. There's going to be an even bigger need here soon."
According to the American Welding Society, by 2023 the U.S. will need about 375,000 welders to fill open positions across several industries.
“We’re seeing that challenge. Places like Polaris have done a very good job of educating the workforce, but we do need more," said Justin Frick.
Frick is the president of the Halvorsen Company, a manufacturing plant, which builds pressurized equipment, based in Garfield Heights since 1955. The company employs six full-time employees who graduated from the program at Polaris.
“They make the commitment to learn," he said. "They have a good advantage with us. They shadow more veteran employees to learn different skill sets, different machinery outside of even welding."
Victor Krawulski, a senior enrolled in the program at Polaris, is interning with Frick's company, working alongside longtime welding professionals.
“Oh I love it. I go straight from school to work and I’m there for the rest of my day. I like to be able to make money doing what I love doing right now," Krawulski said. "It’s really enjoyable to hear some of their stories and see what they have to say.”
Krawulski said he didn't know much about welding prior to enrolling in his junior year. He says he has learned a lot and is excited to continue learning.
"There's always a lot more learning to be done with this," he said.
Currently seven seniors in the program are interning with companies in Greater Cleveland. Another four will begin their internships at the end of the month. Martinez said internships are earned based on grades and attendance.
Martinez believes the two-year program gives students a leg up when applying for their first job, and said he’s proud to give Northeast Ohio companies hard-working graduates.
"Welding is a skill. It’s not for everyone, so for them to jump in and tackle it, it’s a pretty good thing," he said.
In addition to the high school program, Polaris Career Center offers a 36-week adult welding class. Martinez said his adult class is also full. Some of those enrolled, he said, have switched careers due to the pandemic, while others enrolled to advance within their current careers or company.
"Enrollment is definitely up and doing well," Martinez said.
Click here to learn more about the welding program, as well as others, at Polaris Career Center.