The FabTech International & AWS Welding Show once again was the venue for the annual the American Welding Society's “Image of Welding Awards” at which the industry acknowledges the people who work to advance the way our industry is seen by most people outside of it.

The a subcommittee of the Welding Equipment Manufacturers' Committee set aside time during the show to recognize 23 people, organizations and companies that have invested in the welding industry and have contributed to improving its image. Many of those honored have dedicated their careers and much of their lives to the advancement of welding, and certainly have gone farther than most for the industry to promote it as a career choice for students.

You can find the honorees listed on page 40 of this issue, and details are available at the American Welding Society Internet site (www.aws.org.), but I want to highlight the achievements of several of the awardees.

The AWS Tulsa Section has done a lot of work with its local businesses and educational institutions to determine how critical the shortage of trained welders is.

The section took it upon itself to survey companies in its region to determine the needs for new and experienced welders, and the levels of skills and the familiarity with specific processes that welders would need to land positions, then section members worked with schools to develop and mentor experienced and new welders to help them to gain the training they would need to fill the positions that were available.

That is an on-going effort that promises to make a steady flow of trained welders available to the businesses that need them in the future.

The AWS Western Carolina Section was inactive for a long time, but was revived by the efforts of Bob Wallace and Bob Humphreys, who had considerable help from the local businesses in their region.

Over the past five years, the section has gone from lackluster inactivity to being the sponsor of scholarships for young welding students and the sponsor of dynamic activities that keep the regional businesses involved.

A&B Process Systems (www.a&bprocess.com) in Stratford, Wisconsin, a maker of stainless steel tanks and stainless steel process systems, started its own school — the A & B Training Institute, to train and develop welders for its own operations, but that training school quickly spilled beyond the company's walls.

This 25-year old company has implemented community outreach for welders, and does promotional efforts at local, state and national levels to congratulate and encourage new and experience workers in welding. A&B Process Systems was given an award as a Big Business.

Similarly, Richard Bryant, of Carolina Energy Solutions (www.carolinaenergysolutions.com), was instrumental in establishing a training institution for the company he helped to establish. The company now is a part of Westinghouse Electric Co., and Bryant, who was its chief executive officer, now is a consultant to it.

However, the infrastructure that was built under his administration continues to support the company and other companies in its region and, now in his position as a consultant, Bryant continues to work and to support the welding industry through the American Welding Society Foundation in ways that may not be as visible, but are certainly as vital.

Finally, in the Distributor Category, Rywal-RHC Ltd., founded by Robert Pyka, was honored for its accomplishments in modernizing the Polish market. Pyka, who attended the FabTech/AWS show from his native Poland, broke barriers of socialist ideologies and motivated his workforce to develop what is today the largest welding distribution company in Eastern Europe.

There were 96 nominees for the Image of Welding Awards this year, and it is unfortunate that the Image of Welding Committee could choose only 23 of them for awards. Those were difficult decisions to make.

Each of the 23 award winners deserves congratulations for their hard work, and I wish I had space available to tell all of their individual stories. Not one of them spends idle time in this industry, and we should thank of them for their hard work.

They are examples of what can be done to bring more welders into industry, and they set examples for all of us.