this week we feature another career that often flies under the radar. Being an Ironworker means that you are continuing a long legacy of hard working, highly skilled individuals who help build some of the most monumental structures that we see today.
We can thank Ironworkers for the structural integrity of skyscrapers, bridges and other infrastructure projects that we take for granted!
Being an Ironworker means your help build structures that last for centuries.
As the name suggests, Ironworkers fabricate and erect (and dismantle) the structural steel framework for different reinforced building projects. Ironworkers are involved in everything from buildings, stadiums, arenas, hospitals, towers, wind turbines, bridges and many many other significant infrastructure projects.
Being an Ironworker is dangerous and involves many risks, so being safety is paramount on job sites. Ironworkers are often high above the ground using welding and other heavy tools for hours at a time. Even when they are grounded, Ironworkers are constantly moving heavy material (steel and equipment) and therefore are at risk.
Project coordinators and Ironworkers themselves are much more conscious of the risks than they were in the early years of structural Ironworking. In fact, in the early 1900’s, Ironworkers suffered the highest risk of on the job injury. To mitigate the ever present risk, In 1896, the International Association of Bridge, Structural, Ornamental and Reinforcing Iron Workers was formed to improve work conditions. Things have changed, and risks now are now more related to over work, rather than lack of safety precautions. Conditions have improved and the union continues to support workers and improve conditions. It is one of the oldest trade associations in the world.
Ironwork is mostly defined using three categories:
Structural Ironwork: Structural Ironworkers are the tradespeople that position and install the massive steel girders and beams that make form the basis for massive projects such as bridges and skyscrapers
Reinforcement Ironwork: Using hand tools and cutting torches, the Reinforcement Ironworkers form and the inside of the concrete forms that make up the base and walls of structures. Their work is hidden, but without it structures would not stand as they do!
Ornamental Ironwork: The Ornamental Ironworker, or the “finishers’ form and install the steel that are used after the structure is complete — think handrails, curtain walls and other finishing touches.
Fabricating: Often called “Shop Ironworkers, these folks are the ones who mold and create the support beams and other premade components of a structure.
Wages start at around minimum wage and can get up to $50 an hour for a journeyman Ironworker, with overtime pay higher. On an annual basis, wages range between $35,000 to well over $100,000 with more experienced journeyman ironworkers.
The term of apprenticeship for an ironworker-structural/ornamental tradesperson is either three or four years depending on the province. This included a minimum of 1500 hours of on-the-job training and 6 weeks of technical training each period.
A great resource if you’re interested in becoming an Ironworker is the Union Website
As always — check out workintrades.ca to find the most recent Ironworker jobs!