As a Certified Welding Inspector and Educator (AWS-CWI, CWE) I find it a duty to make this information about the Welding Industry known to assist in shaping a comprehensive Welding Industry Action Plan for effective administration of the industry in Ghana.

The Welding Industry can be defined as the use of science, technology and the application of welding and allied joining and cutting processes including brazing and soldering, thermal spraying and quality in welding workmanship for joining materials.

Within the oil and gas, mining, manufacturing, fabrication and the general construction industry – welding is done according to standards, codes, specifications and recommended practices and various processes are employed in the welding industry including Shielded Metal Arc Welding (SMAW), Gas Metal Arc Welding (GMAW), Gas Tungsten Arc Welding (GTAW), Flux Cored Arc Welding (FCAW) – the most commonly employed processes in construction and fabrication.

The oil and gas, fabrication and the general construction industries depend on skilled personnel to employ these processes in the fabrication and installation of their production facilities. The mining industry requires skilled industry personnel for the fabrication, installation, repair and maintenance of mining assets.

The Power and Gas plants – the thermal power plant, gas processing plants, oil refineries, gas pipelines and re-gasification plants construction depend heavily on trained, qualified and certified welding industry personnel for their operations. Such welding industry personnel include: Structural Welder, Pipe Welder, Welder Fabricator, Materials Engineer, Welding Engineer, Robotics Technician, Welding Technician, Business Owner, Salesperson, Structural Iron Worker, Sheet Metal Worker, Under Water Welder, Welding Educator, Metallurgist, Researcher, Welding Inspector, Machine Operators, Pipe Fitters, Boilermakers and many more.

Welding Industry Personnel Qualification

Clients – owners of such production facilities – make decisions about which contractor must execute their projects. They are assisted by industry bodies that have established procedures for executing such projects –the American Welding Society (AWS), the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) and the American Petroleum Institute (API) have established requirements for construction of structural works, pressure vessels and piping and cross- country pipeline.

ISO BS EN standards are used in many fabrication industries across Europe and Asia. The EEMUA (Engineering Equipment Manufacturers and Users Association) has requirements for the construction of off –shore production facilities – FPSO, suction pile, Christmas trees, etc.

Welder & Welding Operator Qualification

The Welder or Welding Operator must pass a welder performance qualification test to international standards as Structural Welder, Pipe Welder, Pipe Fitter or Welder Fabricator with the skills for using SMAW, GMAW, FCAW or GTAW processes or a combination of these processes. Additional demands are for materials qualified: carbon steels, low alloy/high alloy carbon steels, stainless steels, copper- nickel, aluminum, titanium, incoloy, inconel etc.

Quality Control/ Quality Assurance

Personnel trained, qualified and certified as a Welding Inspector, Welding Engineer, Welding Coordinator, Welding Technician or Supervisor with expert knowledge in the Welding Processes, Metallurgy, Codes, Standards, Specifications, Procedures, Welder Qualifications, destructive and non-destructive testing are required to offer inspection services before, during and after welding ensuring project is executed according to agreed procedures.

Business and Employment Opportunities

Business and employment opportunities exist in the welding industry for Main contractors, Sub- Contractors, Suppliers, Service Providers, Third Party Inspectors, Certification Companies, Testing and Calibration Companies.

Welder Education & Training

Welder training, qualification and certification are achieved through the use of the services of an Accredited Testing Facility (ATF) including the following:

1. Implementation of a quality assurance program that meets the requirements of the AWS Standard for the Accreditation of Testing Facilities

2. Facility Manager – the duly designated individual authorized by the ATF to make legally binding commitments and statements on behalf of the ATF.

3. Quality Manager- Shall be responsible for maintaining the quality management system and documentation on a regular basis for the ATF.

4. Facility Representative – Duly responsible for the direction and implementation of all the requirements defined in the certification specification for the ATF.

5. Qualifier – Shall conduct the Welder Performance Test in a professional manner and be responsible for the final in-process inspection before, during and after the weld testing process. The qualifier can be an employee of the ATF or contractor.

The facility Representative may also be a Qualifier or Facility Manager who is a current Certified Welding Inspector or Senior Certified Welding Inspector.

Employment opportunities for qualified structural and pipe welders, pipe fitters and welder fabricators

Opportunities exist for immediate employment in the Oil & Gas, Mining, Gas & Power Plant Construction, Ship Yard & Dry Dock, Bauxite, Manganese, Iron Ore Mining and Processing, Railways, Civil Construction, Highways, Bridges and Welding Education and Training as Entry Welders.

For example a power plant construction contractor may employ over 200 welders for two years or more for a single project and a shipyard and dry dock facility may employ over 200 welders on a permanent basis. Mining companies all together may employ over 1,000 welders for the fabrication, erection, maintenance and repair of their mining equipment.

Oil and gas industry construction contractors and service providers may employ over 1,000 welders for their projects and contractors for other infrastructural projects scattered throughout the country may employ more than 1,000 welders. These infrastructural projects include: Railway expansion, One District One Factory, Tank Farms, Agricultural Engineering Projects and many more.

Currently more than 2,000 highly skilled Structural Welders, Pipe Welders, Pipe Fitters and Welder Fabricators are required to fill the skills gap in welding which are being performed by expatriate welders from Asia, Middle East, Europe and other African countries. For example, a pipe line project from Takoradi to Accra and beyond, passing through land, as proposed by Ghana Gas, will require the services of some 200 Welders over a 2 year period.

Such qualified Welders earn a minimum salary of $2,000 (Average annual minimum salary of $24,000). Estimated annual Welder cost for this project will be around $4,800,000 to be paid to expatriate welders because Ghana presently does not have such highly skilled and qualified Pipe Welders suitable for this project.

This is just one of the numerous infrastructural projects to be carried out possibly starting 2023. Other infrastructural projects that will require the services of such highly skilled welders include:

  • The Railway Expansion Project
  • The One District One Factory project
  • The Ghana Ports and Harbors and Tema Shipyard Project
  • All the Gold, Bauxite, Manganese and Iron Ore Mining Projects
  • Building and Civil Engineering projects including Bridges, Hospitals, Waste Management facilities etc.
  • Power and Gas Plants, Water Treatment plants, Sewerage Treatment plants etc.

Benefits of having a national database of qualified welders

A national program for selecting, training and qualifying the Ghanaian youth in welding and placing them on a national database for the attention of contractors executing national infrastructural projects for employment is long overdue.

The benefits include:

* the creation of highly skilled employment opportunities for Ghanaian youth placed on a national database

* the bridging of the skills gap in welding and welding related employment opportunities that are being filled by expatriate welders and thus saving foreign exchange

* building the capacity of Ghanaian businesses especially in the steel construction industry for manufacturing, construction, services and supplies

* possibly making Ghana competitive in the qualified labor employment market through the supply of highly skilled, top-notch welders and welding operators within the sub-region and beyond

* creating a pool of qualified Structural and Pathways Welders for the pursuit of higher education in Welding Technology and Welding Engineering Technology for employment as Welding Technicians, Technologists and Engineers.

* The Technical Universities in Ghana may be required to seek international accreditation to offer an associate degree in Welding Technology and BSc in Welding Engineering Technology starting with the Structural and Pathways graduates in a faculty of applied technology offering Manufacturing Engineering programs.

Some global welder training funding arrangement

The United States: “American Welding Society Encourages Community College Welding Programs to Seek TAACCCT Grant Funding MIAMI, Fla., April 21, 2014 – The American Welding Society (AWS) announced today that it commends the objectives of the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) round four requests for grant applications.

This round of funding is the final installment of $450 million US Labor Department grants available to expand job-driven training partnerships between community colleges and employers. “This TAACCCT grant is timely in that the welding education and training infrastructure have evolved to the point where a national system can be developed to provide multiple pathways for adults to enter and grow their career,” said Dennis Harwig, chief technology officer, American Welding Society.

“Critical needs for this solution include educating and training educators so they understand industry technology requirements, building articulation between community colleges for national core curriculum yet offering a range of advanced electives to meet specific regional needs, and creating accelerated pathways that recruit more adults into modern metal fabrication careers,” he said.

AWS has been working closely with several community colleges to understand the challenges that exist between educators and employers to prepare adults for careers in metal fabrication and manufacturing where welding and its allied technologies are critical to American competiveness.

The Society has also been involved in developing a national core curriculum for technicians through the National Science Foundation Advanced Technological Education Center for Welding Education and Training (Weld-Ed). In addition, AWS has been and continues to, develop personnel qualification standards, education technology and training, and credentialing services for building and bridge fabrications, energy and chemical plants, pipelines, automotive, aerospace, and heavy manufacturing industries.

Welding skills are in high demand in these industries. There are many high paying career pathways that begin with education and training in welding technology. Facing a shortage of over 216,000 welding industry professionals by 2020, AWS encourages community colleges to develop education, training and qualification capabilities that meet the needs of companies who often struggle to develop their workforce.

“This TAACCCT grant opportunity provides critical resources that could significantly improve education and training capabilities for adults, and has potential to significantly impact the competitiveness of American fabricators and manufacturers,” said Harwig.

Colleges applying for grants and wanting to learn more about AWS programs should contact the AWS. Other countries including India, China, South Africa, the Middle East and other Asian nations have made definite funding arrangements for the training and qualification of Welders, Welding Technicians, Welding Technologists, Welding Engineers and other Welding Industry personnel for their national needs and that of other nations as expatriate Welding Industry personnel.

The Ghana situation and the way forward

Even though statistics on qualified welder requirements for the Manufacturing, Construction, Services and Supplies industries in Ghana are not readily available, the sheer size of our infrastructural investment requires not less than 2,000 Structural Welders, Pipe Welders, Pipe Fitters and Welder Fabricators qualified to AWS, ASME, API or BS Standards by 2025.

This skills gap is currently being filled by expatriate welders from Asia and other African nations. For example the contract for the construction of a gas pipeline from Takoradi to Tema, as envisaged by Ghana Gas, will definitely be executed by a foreign contractor who would in turn bring in some 300 – 500 expatriate welders for the execution of this project for obvious reasons: not one qualified welder with the requisite experience for such pipeline welding can be found in Ghana.

 “The Ghana National Gas Company (Ghana Gas) has signed a deal with Chinese multinational, Yantai Jereh Group, for the construction of an onshore 278 km natural gas pipeline from the Aboadze enclave in the Western Region to the power enclaves at Tema in the Greater Accra Region” (MyjoyOnline – Economy April 24, 2017).

This gas pipeline project would not be the only one in the country that will demand the services of such highly skilled Welders. Many more, including the Railway expansion, Shipyard and Dry-dock, Oil and Gas facility construction and maintenance, Power Plant etc.

Investments in such infrastructural projects must provide thousands of employment opportunities for highly skilled Ghanaians to reduce the unemployment menace and also increase government tax revenue through taxation of such highly paid welding industry personnel. A facility for training, testing and qualification of such highly skilled welders can be sited in a career college setting anywhere throughout the whole world but must meet the requirements of an American Welding Society – Accredited Testing Facility.

The AWS Accredited Test Facility (ATF) program establishes minimum requirements for test facilities, their personnel and equipment to qualify for accreditation to test and qualify welders. This program is open to all qualified test facilities that may be a part of an independent laboratory, manufacturing plant, educational institution, or other entity.

AWS-ATF requirements can be adopted and implemented in Ghana for the qualification of welders

The AWS Accredited Test Facility (ATF) program requires that a facility implement a quality assurance program that meets the requirements established in the AWS Standard for the Accreditation of Testing Facilities.

The requirements include that the facility have a Quality Manual that controls the activities related to the testing of welders in the facility according to AWS Standard for AWS Certified Welders. The facility must also have a CWI on staff or contracted to perform the welder qualification tests.

Funding for such welder training and qualification

Ghana must provide grant funding for the payment of fees and other stipend for the training and qualification of at least 1,000 such highly skilled welders and place them on a national database, as entry welders, for the attention of ALL Contractors both local and foreign, for employment thereby gradually reducing Ghana’s reliance on expatriate welders for executing national projects.

Such highly skilled and qualified welders earn not less than $2,000 a month and could therefore reap the return-on-investment and reduce unemployment.

Hopefully, this contribution will receive the desired national attention and swift action to empower the Ghanaian youth with the requisite skills in Welding to contribute to our national industrialization agenda.

The author is Managing Director, Danest Engineering Co. Ltd