Five-and-a-half years ago, Surry had 12 welding students, President David Shockley says in the accompanying video. Then a company arrived nearby that needed welders – and today Surry has 100 welding students.
“Almost every one of those students has a job when they leave here and leave our program,” Shockley says.
There are broader forces at work as well, says Lead Welding Instructor Michael Dixon – in the ‘80s and ‘90s, more students went into computers than into trades that were considered “dirty” and “hot.”
So there’s now a shortage of 250,000 welders in the U.S – and their pay keeps increasing.
“You can start out anywhere from $12, $14 an hour to $22 an hour – and it goes up from there. If you’re willing to travel, $25 an hour minimum, and the sky’s the limit,” Dixon says.
“How hard you want to work translates to how much money’s in your bank account – simple as that.”