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Jun 17, 2020

Tips for New Welder Training


With the welder shortage anticipated to reach 400,000 by 2024, more companies are implementing internal training programs to address their welding needs. These programs allow qualified personnel to train and certify individuals who may have never held a MIG welding gun, stick electrode stinger or TIG torch. It also affords the opportunity to train those with some experience to weld to the standards of the company’s specific applications.

Welding operator MIG welding part on table with a spool of wire in the foreground
Effectively training new welders goes beyond just teaching
welding techniques. It also requires instilling good habits
from the start — ones that apply to the overall process,
even before striking an arc.

In many cases, welding equipment and filler metal manufacturers can assist with these programs, by taking a “train the trainer” approach — teaching foremen, shop leads and supervisors so they are armed with the knowledge to pass onto new employees.

Training basics
Effectively training new welders goes beyond just teaching welding techniques. It also requires instilling good habits from the start — ones that apply to the overall process, even before striking an arc. There are several areas of training to consider.

1. Welding safety and personal protective equipment (PPE). Safety is critical in the welding operation and should be the first aspect of new welder training. Welders need to become familiar with the power source or power sources they will be using, following the manufacturer’s manuals for safe setup and operation. Teach new welders about any relevant company safety practices, about the safe use of filler metals according to the safety data sheet (SDS) and about proper ventilation — particularly to keep their head out of the weld plume.

During training, instruct on the importance of checking ground connections and connections along the MIG gun or TIG torch cables to reduce the risk of electrical shock.

PPE should also be an essential part of training new welders. Ensure welders know to wear safety glasses under their welding helmet and when conducting non-welding-related tasks in the weld cell. Other PPE to be used at all times include steel-toe boots, and flame-resistant long-sleeve jackets, pants and gloves. 

2. Filler metals. Filler metals are often an overlooked and misunderstood aspect of the welding operation, and it’s not uncommon for even more seasoned welders to be unfamiliar with these consumables. When training new welders, it’s beneficial to help them understand the meaning of the American Welding Society (AWS) classifications. Doing so informs them of the mechanical and chemical properties of the filler metal, as well as their operating characteristics.

For example, a metal-cored wire with the AWS classification of E70C-6M H4 breaks down as follows:

*E signifies the wire is an electrode

*7 indicates it provides a minimum of 70,000 psi tensile strength

*0 signifies the wire is for flat and horizontal welding positions

*C identifies that it is a composite cored wire (like metal-cored)

*6 refers to the wire’s chemical composition

*M indicates the wire operates with mixed gases (argon/CO2)

*H4 signifies that the wire creates a weld deposit with a maximum of 4 ml of hydrogen per 100 g of weldment (considered a low hydrogen electrode)

Closeup of box of Hobart wire on top of a drum of welding wire
Filler metals feature AWS classifications breakdowns that
explain the products’ strength, gas requirements (if any)
and more, and are included on every package.

Other types of filler metals (e.g. flux-cored and solid wires) follow similar classification breakdowns that explain the strength, gas requirements (if any) and more, and are included on every package. There are many references online that can also help new welders understand what each part of the classification means.

Note that not all filler metals with the same AWS classifications perform equally. While each filler metal manufacturer must meet the minimum property requirements for a specific classification, one wire may run differently than another. It is important to teach new welders to dial in the power source settings according to the filler metal manufacturer’s recommendations to achieve the best performance.

New welders should also be informed of the varying welding techniques associated with a given filler metal and welding process. For flux-cored wires, which produce a slag system, typically a drag or pull technique is best — whereas metal-cored or solid wires achieve more desirable results with a push technique. Keep in mind, varying weld joints and welding positions may require a slight change in technique, as well as adjustments to machine settings.

3. Welding procedures and filler metal data sheets. As a part of their training, new welders should learn how to read and follow welding procedure specifications (WPS). Having a WPS is best practice for companies. These specifications provide essential information to support consistent operation and quality, and include details such as:

*Type of shielding gas mixture

*Shielding gas flow rate

*Type and diameter of filler metal

*Voltage and amperage ranges

*Wire feed speeds

*Preheat and interpass temperatures

To verify that new welders can apply the WPS in a given application, they must be tested and qualified to show they can complete specific welds to the appropriate quality. A welder qualification record (WQR) will be placed on file with the WPS as proof.

Side view of welder setting up parameters on power source

As when learning safety procedures for a machine, encourage
the welder to follow the manufacturer's manual in adddition to 
hands on instruction for setup.

Likewise, filler metal data sheets offer valuable information to help optimize the performance of the product. In addition to providing the type of current for the filler metal to operate (direct current electrode positive or DCEP and direct current electrode negative or DCEN), data sheets provide information on the weld position (all position, flat and/or horizontal), deposition rate, contact-tip-to-work distance, welding parameters and more. These sheets also include conformances and approvals and diameter and packaging sizes.

4. Machine setup and new technologies. Pulling the trigger on a MIG gun is one thing for a new welder to learn but setting up a power source from scratch is quite another. As when learning safety procedures for a machine, encourage the welder to follow the manufacturer’s manual in addition to hands on instruction for setup. It’s important to establish an understanding of the difference between amperage and voltage, for example, and how these translate into weld appearance. Also, understanding the impact of adjusting wire feed speed should be part of the training process — increasing it raises the amperage, which in turn generates greater penetration into the weld joint.

Just as essential as learning to use the power source on hand is keeping an active and open mind about learning new technologies. While the welding industry may not evolve its technologies as quickly as others, new ones are available regularly. Being open to change — especially when the technology can help improve performance, quality and productivity — can go far in helping new welders fine tune their skills to advance their training and careers.

More opportunities
Companies that conduct their own new welder training and the new welders who participate stand to gain mutual benefits. As welders increase their knowledge and refine their skills, they are able to bring more value to the welding operation and the overall business a company does. In many cases, there is the opportunity to build a solid career of progressive responsibilities. Similarly, by offering effective training and support, companies are investing in the value of their employees, which can lead to longer retention and greater job satisfaction.