The Boy Scouts of America Release Welding Merit Badge for Scouts | MillerWelds

The Boy Scouts of America Release Welding Merit Badge for Scouts

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Boy Scouts team with American Welding Society to implement a welding merit badge program in reaction to Scouts' desire to learn how to weld.

The Boys Scouts of America (BSA) is an iconic organization that has been a part of the lives of young men for more than 100 years –- not quite as long as welding has been around, but both the act of welding and the involvement in scouting have been important in the American story and worldwide success. In February the BSA unveiled the first official connection between Scouting and welding: Scouts can now earn a welding merit badge. It all came together thanks to a member of the American Welding Society and his fond memories of being a Scout.

It took five years from the day Jack Compton first mentioned the welding merit badge idea during an AWS board meeting. At the time Compton was a district director with AWS, and he had grandsons working through the Boy Scout merit badge program. The discussion at the board meeting was sparked by studies that showed a dwindling supply of welders for the workplace. The question was, “What could AWS and industry do to spark the welding interest of young people?” Compton immediately thought of his grandsons and the fact that he could not help them earn a badge leaning on his knowledge as a welder.

“What is more American than welding and Boy Scouts?” says Compton. “I had no idea how to go about it, but the topic at the board meeting was about inspiring youth to be more involved with welding. It just made a lot of sense turning to the Boy Scouts.”

The BSA doesn’t just add merit badges without some careful thought and research and a lengthy progression; there is a deep - dive process before a new badge is included in the lineup of 127 earnable badges.

The process begins with a committee and is ultimately decided by the Scouts themselves. Scout focus groups ponder ideas and then give feedback to the organization. If the idea makes it through the focus group, surveys are then distributed to more Scouts, and again, the input is weighed. Most badge ideas never make it out of discussion. Only the ideas that gain approval from the Scouts themselves are moved forward and approved.

“The kids told us they had an interest in welding,” says Janice Downey, senior innovation manager for Boy Scouts. “They said not only did they want to be able to explore welding, but they wanted more than a video to watch or local welding shops to visit. They told us they wanted hands-on experience with real welding. Welding certainly fits with the Boy Scout experience, and given the positive feedback from Scouts we moved it forward.”

Boy Scouts of America believes that welding is an important part of our nation’s growth and stability; employers have a consistent need for skilled welders in construction fabrication, manufacturing and other industries. The BSA also says continued advances (in welding) will help drive our nation’s productivity and strengthen its financial stability.

“This merit badge is a good fit with preparing Scouts for their future and offers Scouts a fun way to explore skills that can grow into a hobby or career,” says Downey. “The Welding merit badge will enable Scouts to learn hands-on how to join metals using welding techniques. The skills they learn may even be helpful for making or repairing items for their troop.”

The need for welders

The need for skilled welders is a story line that anyone involved with welding is very familiar with. The AWS commissioned a study in 2002-2003 that showed there would be 200,000-plus welding jobs that would not be filled.  A second look shows the need will only grow, and not just in the area of the welder, but all facets – welding engineers, weld techs, supervisors with welding experience, employees with an understanding of welding and robotics – resulting in 230,000 more jobs than available workers by 2019.

“We have been working on strategies with companies like Illinois Tool Works, and its great companies –- Miller, Hobart Brothers and others –- to really build the foundation for workforce development,” says Dave Landon, vice president AWS. “We need to get these young people exposed in a safe and educational setting that will spark interest, and I think Scouting is a great place for this. There’s no doubt the jobs will be there.”

The stats from Boy Scouts and AWS are telling:

  • Manufacturing is experiencing a shortage of skilled welders; the average age of welders in the United States is about 55. By the end of the decade, it is estimated there will be a critical need for 230,000 new welders and welding related jobs.
  • Skilled and talented welders have a brand-new place in our contemporary world. The image of last century’s industrial age lingers: the stereotypical welder toiling away in the factory. But that era has passed. Welding has a new spark. Advancements in science, technology, and the digital universe have transformed the world and the world of welding.
  • New innovations in welding featured at the 2011 FABTECH Expo included more than 75 products and innovations that are considered green technologies. This fits with the Conservation Good Turn and other green initiatives of Scouting. 

Welding merit badge requirements

It was a five-year process that, once approved, took another year of careful consideration of the actual badge requirements. In order to achieve the Welding merit badge, Scouts will need to conduct a number of steps that include welding safely, learning about welding processes, techniques, and vocabulary. Next the Scout will choose a process and then properly set up a welding machine and prepare it for welding.

The Scout will then weld to the requirements outlined in the Boy Scout handbook put together with help from the AWS:

  1. Using a metal scribe or soapstone, sketch your initial onto a metal plate, and weld a bead on the plate following the pattern of your initial.
  2. Cover a small plate (approximately 3" x 3" x ¼") with weld beads side by side.
  3. Tack two plates together in a square groove butt joint.
  4. After your counselor has inspected the tacked plates, weld them together from both sides.
  5. Tack two plates together in a T joint, have your counselor inspect it, then weld a T joint with fillet weld on both sides.
  6. Tack two plates together in a lap joint, have your counselor inspect it, then weld a lap joint with fillet weld on both sides.

The Scout will next need to gain an understanding about the careers available in welding and write about the three that interest him most.

“We think, thanks to the surveys we’ve done with these young people, that the welding badge will be a very popular badge,” says Downey. “They have told us they want to do this. We feel very strongly that it will be a positive for Scouts.”

More than 15,000 Scouts attained the last new badge created by the Boy Scouts, the Robotics badge, in its first year. The 69,000–member-strong AWS and companies like Miller are poised to help out local troops so that the Welding merit badge will be just as successful.

“It took five years but that comment about a Welding badge in the AWS board meeting ultimately led to what I think will really inspire scouts to want to weld,” says Compton. I know the volunteers like myself will line-up to help these kids learn the great skill of welding.”

If you are a welding professional and would like to help Scouts attain the Welding badge you can find more information on volunteering with the Boy Scouts at http://www.scouting.org/volunteer.aspx or contact your local chapter of AWS. You will need to submit to a standard background check that is required for all volunteers within the Boy Scouts organization.

The welding badge will certainly inspire more young people to become involved in and gain a passion for welding. The ultimate impact will be more skilled workforce moving into welding and welding related careers and having a positive influence on the future needs of industry.