According to the American Welding Society, the industry will reach a deficit of 400,000 workers by 2024. A rapidly aging welding workforce, as well as some misconceptions about careers in rail, are contributing factors towards the global labour shortages in the industry.
Although automation and new technology is helping to bridge the gap in some areas, there is still a demand for track welders everywhere in the world.
Rail infrastructure specialist Pandrol is encouraging young people to consider starting their own career in welding by working with Railway Civil Engineering students in Universities in Paris, Valenciennes and Lille (France) to offer training in aluminothermic rail welding. The sessions are for 20-25 people and run for 1-1.5 days at a time.
In addition to their outreach work, the company launched its own training academy three years ago – the site, based in Raismes in France, is the company’s flagship training academy for welding. In the training academy, internal and external tracks are used to provide a classroom environment and replicate on-track conditions, with all welding completed outside. In addition to standard track there is a third rail dedicated track and this year will see the installation of a crossing for training of ARC repair. The training also supports the introduction of digitisation in track welding using the Pandrol Connect weld tracability app.
The length of training can range from 2-3 weeks to a full 6 weeks for total beginners. Training is supported by e-learning and tutorials, like the ‘how to’ series on Pandrol’s website and the AND ANOTHER THING podcast.
Over 200 people are trained each year on the different processes – however, Pandrol has confirmed that these numbers aren’t enough to cover the global shortages.
Nicolas Chevalier, Head of the Pandrol Training Academy said
“Statistics paint a gloomy picture for the future of talent in the rail industry, with huge numbers of skilled workers leaving over the next few years without a solid base of new recruits to replace them.
The industry needs to do more to raise awareness of the opportunities that are available and challenge the preconceptions many may have of a career in rail. There are plenty of large-scale rail projects happening round the world, so there is a growing demand for talented welders and skilled track workers.
The training team at our training academy travels all over the world teaching welding to track teams. Many of us started out welding on track and have seen the industry change and grow first-hand – it’s a really exciting time to be a part of it!”
The Pandrol Training Academy leads and supports the company’s other welding training centres around the world, and trains remote welding trainers to travel to different locations. Other training sites include: Indonesia, China, Australia, USA, Canada, Thailand, Mexico, Brazil, India, South Africa, Germany, Austria, Russia, UK, Spain and Morocco.