Do you know the median hourly wage for an entry level welder? According to, it’s $18 per hour, but judging by a recent article from NPR, that wage may be set to skyrocket due to an increasing welder shortage.

“America needs more welders — and soon. Baby boomers with the skill are retiring and not enough young people are replacing them. …

The American Welding Society estimates there will be a shortage of nearly 300,000 welding-related positions by 2020.”

So what’s driving this shortage? According to Gardner Carrick of the Manufacturing Institute, the problem stems from America’s current approach to education:

“Carrick blames U.S. education policy for the lack of skilled labor. Think No Child Left Behind.

‘We made the decision that all kids should go to college and as a result you saw the elimination of a lot of the technical programs at the high school level,’ he says.

Carrick’s group is pushing for more skills training and programs that make manufacturing careers attractive to teenagers. And many companies have started their own apprenticeship programs.”

Due to the lack of skilled laborers, these apprenticeship and certificate programs are even being offered to prison inmates, who are getting out of jail and immediately receiving multiple job offers. Combining that fact with the ever-increasing student-debt load (below chart), one has to wonder: is it a smarter choice to choose apprenticeship over college?

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