Is becoming an ironworker right for me?

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What do ironworkers do?
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What are ironworkers like?

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How to become an Ironworker

To become an ironworker, you typically need to complete an apprenticeship program and gain on-the-job training. Here are the general steps to become an ironworker:

  • Meet the Basic Requirements: Most apprenticeship programs and employers require you to be at least 18 years old, have a high school diploma or equivalent, and be physically fit to perform the tasks of an ironworker. Physical fitness is essential due to the physically demanding nature of the job.
  • Research and Choose an Apprenticeship Program: Ironworker apprenticeship programs are typically offered by local joint apprenticeship training committees (JATCs) affiliated with labor unions, such as the International Association of Bridge, Structural, Ornamental, and Reinforcing Iron Workers. Research and contact the relevant JATCs in your area to find out about their apprenticeship programs, application process, and entry requirements.
  • Apply for an Apprenticeship Program: Follow the application procedures provided by the JATC. This typically involves submitting an application form, meeting any educational or experience requirements, and possibly passing an aptitude test or interview. Competition for apprenticeship positions can be high, so it's important to present yourself well and demonstrate your motivation to pursue a career as an ironworker.
  • Complete the Apprenticeship Program: Once accepted into an apprenticeship program, you will typically complete a combination of classroom instruction and on-the-job training. The program duration can vary, but it generally lasts three to four years. During the apprenticeship, you will learn various aspects of ironworking, including blueprint reading, welding, rigging, structural assembly, safety practices, and more. You will work alongside experienced ironworkers and receive progressive pay increases as you advance through the program.
  • Gain Work Experience: The on-the-job training component of the apprenticeship is crucial for gaining practical experience in ironworking. Pay attention to the guidance and instruction provided by experienced ironworkers, as they will help you develop your skills and techniques. Make the most of opportunities to work on diverse projects and gain exposure to different aspects of the trade.
  • Obtain Relevant Certifications: While not always mandatory, obtaining certifications in welding or other specialized areas can enhance your skills and marketability as an ironworker. Look into certifications offered by organizations such as the American Welding Society (AWS) to demonstrate your proficiency in specific welding techniques (see below).
  • Pursue Continuous Learning and Skill Development: Ironworking is a continuously evolving field, and staying updated on the latest techniques, technologies, and safety practices is important. Seek opportunities for professional development through workshops, training programs, and industry events. Continuously improving your skills and knowledge will enhance your career prospects as an ironworker.

There are various certifications available for ironworkers that can validate their skills and enhance their professional credibility. Here are some notable certifications:

  • Certified Welder: Offered by the American Welding Society (AWS), the Certified Welder certification is widely recognized and demonstrates proficiency in welding. This certification verifies an ironworker's ability to perform welding tasks according to specific codes and standards. It involves both written and practical examinations in various welding processes and positions.
  • Certified Rigging and Signalperson: The Certified Rigging and Signalperson certification is offered by the National Commission for the Certification of Crane Operators (NCCCO). This certification validates an ironworker's knowledge and skills in rigging and signaling techniques. It covers topics such as load calculations, sling and hardware selection, and proper signaling procedures for safe lifting operations.
  • Qualified Rigger: The Qualified Rigger certification is offered by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). This certification demonstrates an ironworker's competence in rigging operations, including inspecting and selecting rigging equipment, determining load weights and center of gravity, and applying appropriate rigging techniques to ensure safety.
  • Fall Protection Certification: Given the importance of safety in the ironworking trade, ironworkers can benefit from obtaining fall protection certifications. These certifications, offered by various organizations such as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), provide training and validation in the proper use of fall protection equipment and techniques.
  • Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Certifications: OSHA offers various certifications and training programs related to construction safety. These certifications cover topics such as scaffolding, crane operations, steel erection, and more. While not specific to ironworkers, these certifications demonstrate a commitment to safety practices and enhance job prospects.