The future of the welding industry depends in part on preparing the next generation of welders to meet the challenges and needs ahead. The American Welding Society’s (AWS; Miami, FL) Skills Competition is an event that helps support and showcase the industry through education and intensive competition.
The top students from the U.S. Invitational Weld Trials compete to become the SkillsUSA World Team welder, representing the United States at the international WorldSkills event. Andrew Cardin, a 22-year-old Massachusetts welder, recently won the welding spot on the 2015 U.S. World Team and joined a group of talented Americans who will travel to Brazil in August to compete at WorldSkills, an international, biennial event that is akin to the “Olympics” of trades. To prepare for the event, Cardin has been training 8 to 10 hours a day, honing his welding technique in his parents’ basement.
After working to save money so he could focus completely on preparing for the competition, Cardin quit his job so he could spend more time in his basement shop, where he welds, trains and does research. He also found sponsors who provide him with welding equipment and supplies in his quest to win the welding category at WorldSkills. “This has been my dream since I first saw the medals hanging in my instructor’s office,” Cardin says.
A RETURN COMPETITOR
It’s already been a journey of dedication and hard work for Cardin to earn the spot on the World Team. In 2013, Cardin just missed a spot on the team, coming in runner-up to a welder from Michigan who went on to win a silver medal at the world event in Germany. Since Cardin was a top six finisher that year, he was automatically eligible to compete again in the next AWS competition.
Setting his sights on 2015, Cardin decided to work as a pipe welder — and to set aside enough money from welding jobs to be able to eventually take several months off and devote time to training for the world stage. Cardin was among 60 young welders invited by AWS to vie for the chance to represent the U.S. by taking part in a four-tiered competition that eventually narrowed the pool down to six, then three and then one finalist.
As the AWS/SkillsUSA TeamUSA finalist for 2015, Cardin also received from the AWS Foundation a $40,000, four-year scholarship sponsored by Miller Electric Mfg. Co., $1,000 in AWS publications and a four-year, full AWS membership.
In August, Cardin will head to Sao Paulo, Brazil, where representatives from 52 countries will compete in an array of trades. Cardin must complete eight projects in an 18-hour window, which will be heavily scrutinized and scored by expert judges from 42 countries. In each project, his welds must look flawless, exceed any welding code that exists, and stand up to destructive and nondestructive testing, including radiographic examination where no indications of discontinuities are allowed in order to achieve full points.
MAKING DREAMS COME TRUE
Cardin is a 2011 graduate of Blackstone Valley Regional Vocational Technical High School in Upton, MA, where instructor Dan Rivera took him under his wing and introduced him to the world of welding competition. While his classmates dreamed of buying cars and motorcycles, Cardin had his mind set on owning a Miller® Dynasty® 200 SD TIG welder, because that’s the machine he used in school. It’s one of the machines he has in his basement shop now. “I love that machine,” Cardin says. “I can go anywhere and make money with it.”
When Cardin isn’t actively welding, he’s learning about welding. He talks to sponsors, researches new techniques online, and discusses different ideas and theories with experts. He spends the majority of his time welding or learning about welding — and he says welding is often the first thing on his mind when he wakes up. Cardin says after the world championships he wants to try his hand at offshore or power-plant welding. “I want to do something that’s one of a kind,” he says. “I’m highly skilled now, and I want to be able to use that skill towards something bigger than myself.”
After more hands-on welding industry experience, Cardin says he would eventually like to use his AWS Foundation scholarship to become a welding teacher. He often visits his old high school on Saturdays to cut up materials for his projects, and he finds himself talking welding with the students there.
A PASSION FOR WELDING
The level of skill that welding operators in the competition must demonstrate far surpasses the standards in some work environments. Cardin’s dedication to welding is inspiring, and the passion of young welders like him represents the future of the industry. It is imperative that the welding industry continues to attract and develop more young welders given that, according to the AWS, the industry faces a shortage of about 400,000 welding operators by 2024.
Encouraging and rewarding talent and excellence in the welding industry through competitions like SkillsUSA is one way to help attract young welding operators to the profession.
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