The offshore wind industry is expected to grow and some states may experience offshore wind workforce development gaps. Welding, in particular, is a skill that must be refined for offshore wind because as wind turbines become larger, welders need to be more precise with measurements. For example, while a shipyard fabricates to the centimeter, welders of wind turbines fabricate to the millimeter. A large portion of welders in the U.S. are not certified for those tighter welding tolerances. A mobile training facility could bring expensive equipment to sites along the coast, training more people for less cost.
Oregon has maximized the use of expensive welding lab equipment by creating a mobile lab. The Southwest Oregon Community College Mobile Welding Lab is a 36-foot lab with computers, SMART boards, welding stations, and a virtual welding simulator. Oregon spent $400,000 to create the lab but was able to offset the price using funds from the Department of Labor and by charging fees to industry and high schools for training. With this lab, Oregon not only has been able to train welders, but also has expanded the reach of welding programs to underrepresented groups, including women through its “Women in Welding Project.”
A state could follow Oregon’s lead by creating its own mobile welding lab. The lab could travel to high schools, community colleges, shipyards, military bases, and other worksites to train welders for offshore wind jobs and recruit women and veterans into the offshore wind industry. Since time needed to train welders varies widely—anywhere from a few weeks for workers upgrading their skills to several years of class and on the job training for novices seeking highly skilled work—a focused effort to train welders is urgently needed. Creating a mobile welding lab could meet the diverse training needs within a state.