Returning to the workforce from prison can be difficult. Many former felons find getting reliable, good-paying jobs to be a tedious task. A great way to get a head-start is by having skills in high-demand trades such as welding.
But what does it take to become a welder? And can a felon become a welder, to begin with?
What is welding?
It is important to understand what welding is if you want to learn this skill. Welding is the joining together of pieces of metal by heating or compressing them. Once joined together, the metal needs to be strong, so welders are highly trained and skilled in their trade.
What are the duties of a welder?
Welders have many duties and skills that are necessary for the job. Among them are:
- Positioning and securing metal and metal parts with clamps
- Lighting a flame source
- Maintaining the proper temperature of the flame
- Assessing the final weld to make sure it is safe to use
- Caring for welding equipment and ensuring its safe storage
- Math and problem-solving skills
- Reading blueprints
How does someone become a welder?
Get your diploma or GED
You should have a high school diploma or GED to get started. If you do not have your high school diploma, getting your GED is a simple process.
First, make sure you fill your state’s requirements for getting a GED. Each state has a website with information on what you need. GED.com is a great resource to get started.
You can take online or in-person GED classes to prepare for the test. There are even free and low-cost classes online as well as in your community.
Once you are ready, you will register to take the exam online. The test can take up to 7.5 hours. You can take it in segments or all at once.
Learning to weld
Learning to weld is time-consuming and difficult, but it is necessary to gain experience.
Many community colleges have welding certification programs. There are also independent welding schools and vocational schools that offer certification. Check the listings in your area to find the right school for you.
Enrolling in a class is a great way to see if you will enjoy welding. There will be some classroom experiences as well as hands-on learning. The school will provide all the tools and materials necessary.
Many companies also offer on-the-job training as an apprentice. This is a great way to start making money right away while learning to weld.
You can find listings for apprenticeships on job boards. You can also call local companies you are familiar with to ask if they offer apprenticeships.
What are the different types of welding?
There are many different types of welding. While in training you will need to decide which discipline you would like to concentrate on.
There is MIG welding which has a metal wire. The wire is continuously fed into the flame to join two other pieces of metal together. TIG welding uses an electrode to run a current through the metals to join them. Using a metal filler is not usually necessary for TIG welding.
These are the most popular forms of welding, although there are others to learn and explore. Another type of welding is arc welding. Arc welding is more specialized and uses an electric arc from a power source to create intense heat to join the metals together.
Some welding jobs need certifications, and many will require the completion of a skills test. It is a good idea to get a certificate from the American Welding Society. This will look good on your resume and help you get a job more quickly.
There are many different types of certifications you can get. You will have to decide which works best for you.
Types of certification include:
- Certified Welder
- Certified Welding Inspector
- Senior Certified Welding Inspector
- Certified Welding Educator
- Certified Welding Sales Representative
Joining your local union
Another good idea is to join your local welder’s union. Joining the union is an easy way to meet other welders who can give you advice or tips on finding a job. In some areas, you have to join the union to get work as a welder.
There are different unions for different types of welding jobs such as the Ironworker’s Union or the Boilermakers Union. Decide which works best for you.
Applying for jobs
Whether you plan to get a certification, take classes, or go straight into an apprenticeship, you will need to apply for jobs at some point. You can find many listings for welding jobs on job boards online. Your local unions will also have listings and can help you find work.
You will probably have to take a welding test to prove your skills during or after interviews. It is also a good idea to list any related skills you have such as other construction or mechanical skills.
Is it possible to get a job in welding as a felon?
It can be difficult to find work as a felon. Hard work and a strong desire to learn will go a long way, though.
The welding community is very welcoming. It is common for felons who work hard and learn the right skills to get jobs as welders. Trade schools and community colleges are a good place to start your journey because they usually accept felons.
Recommendations say to start applying at small, locally owned shops. It is recommended to start applying at small, locally owned shops. Often, they won’t run background checks or be as concerned about your criminal record as long as you have the skills for the job.
If you have any doubts, look into the re-entry and educational programs available to felons in your area. These programs can help you re-introduce into society and work more easily.
How Much Do Welders Make?
Keep in mind that pay varies from state to state and can even be different for different cities. Most welders start out around $12 an hour. With more skills and experience, welders can make $26 an hour or more.
If you or someone you know is a felon interested in becoming a welder, you are off to a great start. Everyone deserves a second chance at a great life.