Airgas, an Air Liquide company, has expanded its High School Welding Education Initiative to 23 new schools and six returning schools in the US.

Explaining the selection process, Airgas said the schools were selected from a large number of nominations based on four key factors: high unmet need at the school; a productive welding programme with the potential to graduate job-ready welders; passionate teachers; and enthusiastic Airgas local champions.

Now selected, the participating schools will receive a mix of hands-on professional development training or continuing education for welding teachers, welding consumables or equipment, safety PPE and other resources.

“As more schools participate in this program, Airgas is fielding increased interest and support from customers, suppliers, government officials, and Air Liquide colleagues, stemming from shared interest in boosting career opportunities and cultivating the next generation of welders,” Airgas said in a statement.

By launching and running the programme, Airgas hopes to fill the need for welding professionals in the US. According to labour market data company Emsi, it is believed the US will need over 375,000 welding professionals by 2023 to fill job openings, according to recent projections accounting for economic growth, a retiring workforce, career advancement of the workforce, and technological advancements.

In 2020, 65 Airgas associates from 10 regions provided socially distant support to more than 1,000 welding students, 152 teachers and 29 schools and donated welding machines, consumables and PPE.

Commenting on the programme, Andy Cichocki, Airgas Chief Operating Officer, said, “As professionals in the metal fabrication industry, many of us know first-hand the importance of providing students with early exposure to emerging welding opportunities. We must continue to support our local communities and to find opportunities to enlist future generations of talented welders.”