The Road to Innovative Welding Education
Attracting more welders to the field is critical as the industry works to combat a welding operator shortage. A key part of this effort is developing new training solutions and easier-to-use welding technologies. In many cases, this starts in the classroom.
Miller Electric Mfg. Co. wants to play a role in bridging the skills gap by providing tools that help companies find, recruit and train welding operators faster. In many cases, this starts in the classroom.
There are solutions available to help welding instructors train students — and to help welding students learn skills faster. Some of these options also help save time and money in the training process.
With the goal of putting these solutions in the hands of more instructors and students, Miller recently developed its new Welding Education and Workforce Development Trailer. The mobile trailer highlights the available resources and game-changing technologies developed to help improve welding operator training and education.
“This is like having a school on wheels,” says Matt Hansen, industrial technology instructor at MMCRU High School in Marcus, Iowa. “The amount of content and information packed into a small, portable trailer is awesome.”
The new trailer joins the fleet of Road Show and Mobile Marketing vehicles that Miller uses around the country to show off welding technology, raise awareness of welding projects and provide people with hands-on experience with welding equipment.
“Because of the success Miller has had with its other trailers, we thought it was very important to develop one focused on education and training,” says Steve Hidden, account manager, Welding Education and Workforce Development, Miller. “Finding ways to address the welder shortage is wrapped up in everything we do. We need to make sure we’re providing the tools to get the word out and provide awareness of careers in welding.”
From classroom to lab
The 20-foot customized trailer is outfitted with training solutions from Miller, as well as informational kiosks to help instructors and students find online welding resources — including some that are available for free. The AugmentedArc™ augmented reality welding system and the LiveArc™ welding performance management system are both featured on the trailer.
The trailer’s interior houses the tablet kiosks where users can find online and multimedia resources, and information about mobile apps. The exterior of the trailer is set up for simulation and live welding, with television monitors connected to both the AugmentedArc and LiveArc systems.
The AugmentedArc system is designed for the welding classroom environment. It uses augmented reality technology to improve the efficiency and economy of classroom education for beginner and intermediate-level students. Users wear a specially designed helmet that shows them images of the real world, augmented with computer-generated images of metal workpieces, weld arcs and weld beads. The result is a simulation that closely resembles live-arc welding — without using an actual arc or consuming costly wire, shielding gas or coupons.
The LiveArc system is well-suited for the welding lab. The system provides both a simulation/pre-weld setup mode, as well as a live-arc training mode, allowing users to gain experience and build techniques in pre-weld exercises before seamlessly transitioning into real welding on MIG, flux-cored and stick processes.
Getting these next-generation welding training tools into the hands of more instructors and students is the goal. Students get experience with tools that help them learn welding skills faster — and that help expose them to welding as a potential career — while instructors and program administrators can see first-hand the difference these solutions can make in their programs.
“These technologies are going to change how we educate kids in welding,” says Hansen, who has spent several months using an AugmentedArc system with his welding students in grades 7-12. “It’s teaching muscle memory, it’s focusing on the technique of the welder, which from a high school perspective is huge. It’s all about getting the basics down.”
On the road
Because the monitors display in real time what’s happening when users are at the AugmentedArc and LiveArc modules, other visitors to the trailer can also see and hear how the systems work — and see the type of feedback provided to users.
“We’re trying to recreate that welding classroom and welding lab experience, to show on a small scale what schools can do with the complete lineup of Miller training solutions,” Hidden says.
The trailer has made appearances at the SkillsUSA National Leadership and Skills Conference and FABTECH 2017, where it was a popular attraction for hands-on learning. It will travel the country to make appearances at trade shows and events focused on welding education and training.
It’s another tool in the toolbox to help instructors move the needle in bridging the skills gap. At Hansen’s Iowa high school, where the district is investing in a new $4.5 million career center focused on the industrial trades, these types of tools draw student interest and promote trade careers.
“These tools really catch kids’ attention. It comes down to educating people and breaking that stigma that exists about working in manufacturing,” Hansen says. “The opportunities are available, and the trades can take you as far as you want to go.”