‘Weld’ class careers in Midlands

When a cluster of Midlands engineering firms realised they were all having trouble finding qualified welders, they came up with a novel solution: they would find and train their own.

ENGENUITY, a cluster of over 30 members from Westmeath, Laois, Longford and Offaly, asked the Midlands Regional Skills Forum (MRSF) and Longford and Westmeath Education and Training Board, for help in addressing a critical welding skills shortage.

Welding is a skill that requires technical precision, concentration and a unique set of skills and it has become a highly sought position across the full scope of engineering projects.

“SMEs, especially in the manufacturing and construction sectors, identified a recurring challenge in finding skilled welders”

Across Ireland, there is a dire shortage of welders, leaving engineering companies struggling to fill orders and complete important projects. Welding is the most common way to join metals—which is critical to manufacturing, construction, energy and infrastructure. 

It is also a key skill in the creation of architectural features that are commonly seen in airports and public buildings and even in the creation of artworks in public spaces.

Midlands Welders Traineeship

Woman in grey jacket holding welding equipment.

Dani Kavanagh, director of ENGENUITY member Fabworx, a Longford-based steel fabricating firm

Now a new scheme- called the Midlands Welders Traineeship – could soon provide well-paid jobs after 15 people quickly signed up as trainees. It is different to an apprenticeship in that those who take part get fast tracked over six months to get certification. Participants have an excellent chance of a permanent position when they complete their training.

The ENGENUITY Engineering network, led by LEO Westmeath, and supported by Offaly, Longford and Laois Local Enterprise Offices, was founded in the belief that engineering microenterprises and SMEs needed to come together as a cluster to share knowledge and have their voices heard.

The network was the brainchild of Tracey Tallon, Senior Enterprise Development Officer at LEO Westmeath, who believed that businesses that were experiencing the same problems – such as the particular issue of finding welders – could help each other.

“SMEs, especially in the manufacturing and construction sectors, identified a recurring challenge in finding skilled welders,” explained John Costello of the Midlands Regional Skills Forum.

“Subsequent collaboration with ourselves, MRSF, ENGENUITY and the Longford & Westmeath Education and Training Board (LWETB) resulted in a progressive and proactive plan aimed at addressing current and anticipated shortages of welders. This led to the timely development of an accelerated Welding Skills Programme to address employers’ needs for qualified welders in the Midlands.”

“For employers, the training programme is good news. Dani Kavanagh, Director of ENGENUITY member Fabworx, a Ballymahon, Co Longford-based steel fabricating firm, said the training programme would ensure a guaranteed pipeline of talent to fill key roles.

She said: “It’s a no-brainer for companies and a great opportunity for an individual who may currently be in a low-skilled job and wants to retrain. It’s a short-term investment of six-months for long-term gain of a lifetime career – a typical apprenticeship can take four years so this is real opportunity to learn fast and hands on.

“Welding is an unsung hero in many sectors. It requires technical skill, precision and it can open the door to architectural and manufacturing work as well as advanced work such as aerospace, sub-sea or metal art and sculpture. It’s on my own list of skills to learn, I might even do the course myself.”

John Kennedy
Award-winning ThinkBusiness.ie editor John Kennedy is one of Ireland's most experienced business and technology journalists.