Airgas, along with the City of Philadelphia and School District of Philadelphia, marked the continued partnership between Airgas and A. Philip Randolph Career & Technical High School during a ceremony at the school’s welding workshop.

Since 2012, Airgas has provided financial aid and equipment donations for the school’s welding program, and has implemented a mentorship program between Airgas associates and A. Philip Randolph students, including field trips to tour professional welding facilities. 

The partnership between Airgas and A. Philip Randolph aims to support the welding trade and combat the current shortage of skilled welders, helping to keep metal fabrication jobs in the country, as well as provide a career path for students who may come from disadvantaged backgrounds. In 1988 there were 570,000 welders in the US, according to data kept by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

By 2012, there were fewer than 360,000. The American Welding Society estimates that by 2020 there will be a shortage of 290,000 professionals, including inspectors, engineers, and teachers.

During the celebration, students showed off “amnesty boxes” they welded in the program. The boxes were commissioned by the School District of Philadelphia’s police department and will be placed in Philadelphia schools for the safe, anonymous collection of prohibited items, such as guns and illegal drugs.

The welding program currently serves 45 students in grades 10 through 12. The incoming 10th grade class is the largest in the program’s history, with 19 students, and the class of 2015 will be the first to graduate from the program.