Workforce Development

Case Study and Lessons Learned: New Hampshire Welding Competition

Want a great way to reach the next generation of talent? Host a student welding competition!

AISC’s member fabricators have had success introducing themselves to high schoolers looking for career opportunities in the trades. (And the AISC Education Foundation will help you offer a tempting scholarship prize to the winner by matching local donations up to $4,000 annually!)

Here’s how New Hampshire fabricators Novel Iron Works, Capone Iron Corporation, and SL Chasse made it happen--and the lessons they learned along the way.

New Hampshire State Welding Competition

Program Origination

The goal was three-pronged--with benefits for the schools, their students, and local fabricators:

  1. showcase local community college welding programs
  2. provide funding for welding education
  3. increase the pool of available welders in the state

New Hampshire has seven community colleges under the same umbrella of the Community College System of New Hampshire (CCSNH), three of which offer welding programs. Those three are all located near the three largest structural steel fabricators in the region, all of whom participated in the competition.

The core group of organizers comprised the three community colleges that offer welding; the three fabricators; and ArcSource, a major welding supply company in New Hampshire. Initially, SkillsUSA offered some support: SkillsUSA has its own state and national competitions that include welding fabrication, welding, and welding sculpture. However, because competitors had to be SkillsUSA members to compete and many students did not meet the criteria, organizers shifted their focus to local Career and Technical Education (CTE) centers and high schools with trade programs. CTE programs are statewide (and there are often several within a geographic area).

Competition Set-up and Schedule for Regional Competition

The three local fabricators partnered with their corresponding community colleges for three simultaneous regional high school competitions. Each regional competition followed the same structure, and they all fed into a single state-level competition.

Each site was limited to 16 participants who would all try their hands at Mig, Tig, OFC, and Stick welding based on drawings they received ahead of time, using material fabricators had prepared ahead of time.

Each fabricator broadcast the competition via Zoom so the students’ parents could watch their kids compete.


8:30 - 9:00 a.m. Registration
9:00 - 9:30 a.m.

Opening ceremony, broadcast virtually to all three sites and the parents at home.

  • Welcome by the chancellor of the CCSNH
  • Introduction of the governor of NH by a fabricator
  • Governor’s address
  • Review of safety guidelines
9:30 - 10:00 a.m. Written test of welding knowledge (provided by SkillsUSA)
10:00 - 10:45 a.m. Skill One
11:00 -11:45 a.m. Skill Two
Noon - 12:30 p.m. Lunch
12:45 - 1:30 p.m. Skill Three
1:45 - 2:30 p.m. Skill Four
2:30 - 3:00 p.m. Break while scoring was compiled
3:00 - 3:15 p.m. Awards ceremony

Awards at each regional competition location:

  • First place $1,000 scholarship to the CCSNH welding program of the student's choice
  • Second and Third place $500 scholarship to the CCSNH welding program of the student’s choice.

Competition Support & Resources

Competition Support Personnel

Running the competition involved recruiting some volunteers to judge the welding (four at each competition location) and someone in charge of a Zoom feed so the students’ parents could tune in, as well as people to manage traffic flow and scoring. In New Hampshire, those volunteers came from Miller, ArcSource, Snap-On, Lincoln Electric, staff/teachers from local schools and colleges, and various programs looking to either hire or further train welders.

Fabricators set up with the following:

  • Prepared steel for each welding station
  • Printed plans for each of the four skills tested (more on that below)
  • Measuring tools: tapes, squares
  • Paint sticks for layout
  • Clamps
  • Snacks, water, lunch
  • Trophies
  • Scholarship award certificates
  • Photo releases (signed by parents)
  • Thank you notes for volunteers

Donations & Gifts for Students

The team sourced donations (used in the competitions) as well as some gifts for the competing students to take home.

For the competitions, AWS provided six auto-darkening welding helmets. Lincoln Electric donated six welding backpacks and gloves, and Airgas gave three welding helmets.

Students took home a welding bag with reference material, welding gloves, safety glasses, paint sticks, welding beanies, and more, courtesy of ArcSource.

Lessons Learned and Post-Event Feedback from Regional Competitions

Judges and roving support personnel turned out to be crucial; most students had trouble reading drawings, and those who weren’t familiar with the specific welding machines onsite had a difficult time operating them.

On the equipment side, it turned out that the organizers didn’t actually need to provide all the tools they had on hand for the competition--the ArcSource gift bags distributed after the event included measuring tools and paint sticks.

The host fabricators had a live-camera Zoom feed from 9 a.m. to 3:15 p.m. so parents and schools could watch students compete; although the audience appreciated it, the students remarked that the cameras made them more nervous. When there was downtime between active competitions, the Zoom feed featured photos of the students/CTEs alternating with a list of sponsors and their logos. We hosted speakers, including the chancellor and governor, from remote locations. The three competitions shared one awards ceremony after judging.

Competition Set-up and Schedule for State-Level Competition

The top three winners from each regional competition moved on to a state-level competition.

The state competition tested the same skills, under the same conditions, as the first round of competitions. There was no written exam at the state level.

These were the stronger students and didn't need the full 45 minutes allotted for the specific skills.

Even though there was only one location for the state competition, it was still broadcast via Zoom so parents and schools could watch.

8:30 - 9:00 a.m. Registration
9:00 - 9:30 a.m.

Opening ceremony

  • Welcome by fabricator host
  • Address by Monica Pfarr of AWS's Foundation (excellent speaker)
  • Safety review
9:30 -10:15 a.m. Skill One
10:30 - 11:15 a.m. Skill Two
11:30 a.m. - noon Lunch
12:30 - 1:15 p.m. Skill Three
1:30 - 2:15 p.m. Skill Four
2:30 - 3:00 p.m. Scoring and break, passing out of the gifts donated (see above)
3:00 - 3:15 p.m. Closing address by AISC's Charlie Carter; scholarship presentation
3:15 p.m. AWS award of the $1,000 scholarships to the top three winners

State-Level Awards:

  • First place $2,000 to a CCSNH welding program of the student’s choice
  • Second place $1,500 to a CCSNH welding program of the student’s choice
  • Third place $1,000 to a CCSNH welding program of the student’s choice


  • There was no written exam at the state level.
  • These were the stronger students and didn't need the full 45 minutes allotted for the specific skills.
  • Even though there was only one location for the state competition, it was still broadcast via Zoom so parents and schools could watch.


The press loved this story, which had an ideal blend of human interest and attention-grabbing visuals.

The team invited the local press beforehand and received very good media coverage.

Each community college also sent a press release before and after the event.

Funding & Scholarship Awards

Breakdown for Funding

Each fabricator $1,500 = $4,500
ArcSource  $1,500
One community college $1,000 (given because they were unable to contribute to planning)
AISC matching $4,000
total $11,000*

The CCSNH Foundation took the lead on coordinating the awards and, in partnership with the AISC Education Foundation, distributing scholarships. Recipients could use their funds for a welding program at any one of the CCSNH's colleges. There were no cash awards; the funds were credited against a student's account once they registered for classes. (This became very important, as several of the winners decided to either study out of state or not go into welding, so their awards were reassigned.)

AWS (American Welding Society) gave an additional three $1,000 scholarships to the top three state-level winners with help from their district representatives. They also restricted their awards to a welding program, with a funding model like CCSNH’s.

Lessons Learned Overall

Several of the winners could not use their scholarships because they decided not to go into welding or decided to study out of state. To disperse unused funds, organizers offered the scholarships to lower-scoring competitors and created additional need-based awards.

The CCSNH enrollment system is staggered, so students could enroll as late as fall. A new restriction will allow students to use their funds within either six or twelve months.

A Few Additional Thoughts

This event was inspired by Puma Steel out of Cheyenne, Wyo., which created an extremely successful and longstanding annual event in conjunction with the local community college system. It does not operate exactly like the New Hampshire State Competition but is adapted to meet the specific needs of the area and hosts. If you are interested in learning more about this event, let us know!