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AEP’s welders in the spotlight during National Welding Month

by on April 17, 2013
April is National Welding Month, and AEP employs nearly 400 welders to support operations in Generation, River Operations and the Alliance Railcar Facility. Photo by Erich J. Skelley

(Story by Tom Holliday)

Editor’s Note: This article is the first of three that AEP Now will publish this month to recognize and highlight the contributions of AEP’s professional welders during National Welding Month. This article features general background on careers in welding.

It’s not something you probably think about on a daily basis, but AEP employs a lot of welders; 350 welders in the Generation organization alone. And that doesn’t include the 22 in-house welders employed at AEP River Operations and the 18 welders who work at the Alliance Rail Car Facility. Wherever they work, they keep our plants running, our railcars rolling and our barges and towboats in top condition. Their contributions are critical to the efficient and safe operation of the AEP System.

And this is their month. April is National Welding Month.

A Career in Welding

According to the American Welding Society (AWS), there are more than 500,000 welders employed in the U.S. And the need for these skilled workers is only getting stronger as virtually all construction and manufacturing companies require some form of welding, from the production of assemblies to maintenance and repair.

The AWS website notes that there are more than 80 welding processes. Most involve a skilled worker using a gas-fueled torch or an electric arc (2,800-plus degrees Fahrenheit), filler material that is usually in wire or stick form (though some welds don’t use fillers) and certain friction/pressure processes to permanently bond metal pieces.

Skilled welders are actually in short supply and the situation is only getting worse. According to AWS and other industry research, the average age of a welder is in the mid-fifties, with many approaching 60 years old. It is estimated that more than half of the industry’s highly trained work force is nearing retirement age. 

“It’s definitely getting harder to attract younger welders,” said Scott Koenig, who serves as superintendent of Shipyard Operations at AEP River Operations’ Belle Chasse Shipyard. “It can be a demanding job. Here at the shipyard, you’re exposed to the elements. You’re often working on, or in, old equipment that’s seen better days. It’s definitely a job that calls for a special kind of person.”

But the challenges are often outweighed by the benefits. According to the AWS, a career in welding can be extremely lucrative and exciting, and can lead to high-level employment in various industries.

That’s what Lindsay Johnson, regulatory case manager – Regulatory Services, found when she completed her bachelor’s degree in welding engineering at The Ohio State University. Johnson has been with AEP for nearly eight years. She joined the company as an assistant project manager on the Amos Plant scrubber retrofit project. She’s currently in Regulatory Services on a job rotation assignment.

“At the time I graduated, we were told that welding engineers had essentially a 100 percent placement rate with the second highest starting salary in the engineering field, just behind chemical engineers,” she said. Her degree quickly earned her a position with Deere & Company and shortly thereafter with Honda Engineering of North America.

“I worked at Honda for five years and was designing weld fixtures for the white body of the car,” Johnson explained. “It was a very interesting experience working at Honda. I think it made me a better project manager. I was involved in programming the weld points that the robot welding machines would make. I learned that if you can break things down to smallest task, nothing seems insurmountable.”

The AWS Foundation was established by AWS in 1989 to support programs that ensure the growth and development of the welding industry by strengthening research and educational opportunities in welding and related fields. The AWS Foundation provides funding through scholarships for entry level welding training, technical school, two-year and four-year colleges and fellowships for welding research. To learn more about welding and careers in welding, visit the Careers in Welding website.

In the next installment in our series celebrating National Welding Month, AEP Now will highlight the work that AEP welders do in the Generation business unit and at the Alliance Railcar Facility.

From → News From AEP

  1. carl english permalink

    A little over 40.

  2. Very useful post. Thanks for sharing.

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