Challenge: The offshore wind industry is expected to grow, and some states anticipate 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. Many American welders are not certified to meet these tighter tolerances.
Solution: A mobile welding lab could serve as a training facility, bringing expensive equipment to sites along the coast and training more people for less cost. 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 the 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.
Example: Oregon has maximized the use of expensive welding lab equipment by creating a portable 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 by 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 welding training to underrepresented groups, including women reached through its “Women in Welding Project.”