Dealing With Economic Heat And Pressure

Jim Axelrod is Chief White House correspondent for the CBS Evening News.
Every now and again, on some Web page, you'll see a headline perfectly reflecting our anxiety-producing times. "Six-Figure Jobs You've Never Thought Of," or something like that. When you read the article, it's usually a list of work in high-tech fields that seem to require a Ph.D. from MIT.

Not in Tampa, Fla. There – thanks to a program run by WorkNet Pinellas – hundreds of men and women, many with no more than a high school diploma, are training for jobs that practically guarantee a six figure salary within three-to-five years. It's not high-tech, it's as old school as it gets.

The job? Welding.

Precision welding is a highly refined skill involving delicate balances of just the right amount of heat and pressure. In Florida, precision welders are in high demand, in large part because of the reemergence of nuclear power plants. No new nuclear plants have been built in Florida since the mid-70s, but two are in the works presently, and a few more are on the drawing board. That will mean jobs for hundreds of welders for maintenance and construction.

With many current welders reaching retirement age, the law of supply and demand is taking over, driving up wages – and filling up training programs. The graduates of the WorkNet Pinellas program start at $60,000 after a 16-week training course. With overtime and a little seasoning, they can be making well over $100,000 in short order. The work is not for everyone, but for hundreds in Florida looking at a shaky economy and uncertain job prospects, the best way to deal with the heat and the pressure is to turn to the heat and the pressure – of welding.

Be sure to watch the rest of our "Where They Stand" piece about the candidates and job creation on tonight's CBS Evening News.

  • Jim Axelrod

    Jim Axelrod is the anchor of the Saturday edition of the "CBS Evening News" and a national correspondent for CBS News, reporting for the "CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley" and other CBS News broadcasts.