The road warrior life of high earnings, long hours and extended breaks between jobs — doing field welding during plant shutdowns, for example — offers an attractive lifestyle for some welders.
But does hopping from job to job have a downside?
To find out, we talked to Recruiting Manager Jason Canlas and Account Manager Austin Milligan, two leaders at Aerotek with a combined 14 years of experience placing skilled technicians in the busy Houston market.
They stress that the current state of the job market offers more security for welders than may have been the case in the past.
“The companies we work with have work on the books that extends through 2019,” says Milligan.
So given the hiring environment welders find themselves in, Canlas and Milligan laid out four arguments (respectfully, of course — you don’t get far telling Texas welders what to do) for hanging up your spurs and landing a spot with a manufacturing shop of your choice.
Weld tests are expensive. For a critical weld project, it can cost a company up to $700 in materials and testing services just to determine if a welder should even be allowed on the shop floor.
That’s one reason why critical projects pay more. And it’s also a reason why they might not be as easy to find as more standard projects.
Milligan says, “We have access to opportunities that aren't necessarily being advertised, because a lot of companies don't want a long line of people at their shop ready to weld test. They only want to spend that investment on welders who are going to be loyal to the shop and nail their welds.”
Bottom line: If you develop a reputation for completing your welding contracts, it can put you first in line for the best opportunity available next time.
Right now, the work is plentiful. And welders in manufacturing shops can use this fact to establish seniority to protect themselves for when there’s less work.
“If you find a company that you like, dig your roots in, get some tenure there, so when circumstances change you’re less likely to worry about making first or second cuts,” says Canlas. “And if you end up having to look, companies will want you more than somebody whose resume shows they left jobs and contracts early based who's paying more or offers the most hours.”
The trick is making sure you land somewhere that actually has a backlog of work, rather than a place that says they do. “There are companies that they say that they have work, and they'll hire welders and push them to work the overtime. After a month or two, the work is out the door and there's not any additional work behind it,” warns Canlas.
That’s why a trusted recruiting partner can come in handy. “We won't work on anything that doesn't have a lot of work behind, so anything that'll be over in three months or less is something we typically won't offer you,” says Milligan. Aerotek focuses on being as transparent as possible when offering contract assignments.
Can you weld forever?
“Some people do want to be welders for the rest of their life,” says Canlas. “But life can be unpredictable. Staying at one place helps you earn your way out of the flash and go supervisor, foreman, plant manager and climb your way to the top.”
There’s nothing wrong with being a welder who loves to weld. But “plant manager” sounds like a pretty solid backup plan.
When you do stay with one shop for a while, and build a reputation for finishing contracts, your foreman or recruiting partner might pay you the ultimate compliment:
“I wish I had 10 of you.”
That’s a perfect time to offer to refer colleagues, who in turn can eventually refer their colleagues.
By earning a reputation for reliability, trust can start flowing both ways, and everybody benefits. Aerotek recruiters know this more than anybody, and strive to hold up their end of the bargain.
“It's 10:00 at night, or 2:00 in the morning on the weekend, and one of our candidates calls us and they have an issue, we're going to take care of it,” says Canlas. “A lot of welders in our market know that, so then they all want to refer their buddies. Going the extra mile just ends up helping everybody, and we always try to practice what we preach with that.”
Only good things happen as a result of strong, trusting partnerships between your shop, your recruiter and you.
It can all start with your next job.