This Week’s Featured Career: Ironworker!

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!

 

Overview:

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.

 

Pay scale:

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.

Education:

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.

Resources:

A great resource if you’re interested in becoming an Ironworker is the Union Website

Programs:

Trade Secrets Alberta

BCIT Ironworker Program

SAIT Ironworker Program

ITA B.C.

Ontario College of Trades

As always — check out workintrades.ca to find the most recent Ironworker jobs!

This week’s featured career: Heavy Equipment Operator!

A Heavy Equipment Operator is what many kids (including a young me) think of as their dream job. You operate the coolest machinery, and often make the biggest physical impact of a job site.

 

The Basics

Operators work the equipment that moves what needs to be moved in order for something to be built. Job sites include anything from building/maintaining major housing project to roads, bridges or other major infrastructure projects.

As well as operating the machinery, this career requires some basic mechanics training that allows the operator to perform maintenance and quick fixes on a daily basis.

One of the great things about working heavy equipment is that your work is immediately visible and satisfying. You can see the effect of your work on a daily basis, and your work will be visible long after you have moved on.

 

Heavy Equipment Operators are always needed, and you can continue to get better and better at your craft by constantly operating under different conditions that requires serious focus. It’s not an easy career, and it’s not for everyone.

The stakes are high in this career, and operators need to be on their A game constantly in order to perform well. If a desk job or a dead end job is what you want, then look elsewhere, because heavy equipment operators are required to be razor sharp and constantly engaged. The job can be dangerous, and often operators making the most money are are in the northern parts of Canada and work extraordinary long hours at a very high rate of pay.

 

Pay Scale

Once again, the pay for heavy equipment operators varies on level of training, experience and location. In a general sense, pay of heavy equipment operators vary between $40,000 — $80,000 annually. This can go up to $130,000 — $150,000+ annually in some places in Canada with lots of experience and overtime pay.

Training/Education

After deciding that you want to become an operator, you’ll need to figure out what sort of equipment you’d like to operate and then start working on the relevant certification/qualifications.

Because of the skills needed are very specialized, you need to specify which types of machines you’d prefer and then work towards the necessary qualifications through in class theory, hands on training then a 2–6 year apprenticeship. The qualifications also are heavily dependent on safety training, as the job can be dangerous to yourself and others.

 

Different types of equipment include: Backhoes, Wheel loaders, Bulldozers, Excavators, Road graders, Dump trucks, Skid steers and many others. Many programs include training on all of these machines and a technical certificate requires proficiency across all of these machines.

The training is quite technical, as there is a lot of knowledge required. There is a reason why these careers are in high demand, as the number of qualified applicants is few relative to the openings available.

Resources

ITA B.C. — Vancouver

Trades Training B.C.

IHE Training School

Vancouver Island University

Heavy Equipment College of Canada — Kitchener Ontario

TTCC — Barrie Ontario