Ironworkers fabricate, construct and join scaffolding, structural steel buildings, bridges, ornamental ironwork and pre-cast structures.
They erect structural steel components, reinforce steel, post tension tendons, install conveyors and robotic equipment, and sometimes perform reconstructive work on existing structures.
In general, ironworkers:
- read blueprints and specifications to lay out the work
- unload and stack steel units so each piece can be hoisted as needed
- erect and install scaffolding, construction cranes, derricks and other hoisting equipment
- assemble rigging (cables, pulleys, hooks) to move heavy equipment and materials
- attach cables from a crane or derrick and direct crane operators with hand signals or radios
- position steel units, align holes and insert temporary bolts
- check the alignments and join steel parts by bolting or tack welding them with an electric arc process
- assemble and erect pre-fabricated metal structures
- select, cut, bend, position, and secure steel bars or wire mesh in concrete forms to reinforce the concrete
- install ornamental and other structural metalwork such as curtain walls, metal stairways, railings and power doors
- unload and install pre-cast components.
For more information regarding tasks and activities, please review the Trade Regulation.
Ironworkers generally work outdoors in teams or crews in remote locations as well as urban areas. Their work is physically strenuous and often dangerous. They often work at great heights and must rely on one another to use good judgment as well as safety equipment and procedures to reduce the risk of injury from falling or from falling objects. Adverse weather conditions such as rain, snow or high winds can shut down projects for days at a time.
Successful ironworkers enjoy developing their expertise by doing precise work in a broad range of industries and locations. They enjoy the outdoors and often like travelling and working with different crews.
To be successful in their trade, ironworkers must have:
- the ability to interpret blueprints
- an understanding of safe work practices and the knowledge to safely operate the tools of the trade
- to be able to work at heights
- the strength, stamina, and ability to use proper lifting techniques to lift items weighing in excess of 25 kilograms
- very good muscular coordination, agility and balance
- a willingness to travel to various work sites
- an inclination to work cooperatively with others
- the ability to act quickly and decisively in emergencies.
Most ironworkers are employed by construction contractors, but some are employed in industries such as metal fabricating, oil and gas production, iron and steel production, electric utilities and rail transport. Very few ironworkers are self-employed. In the construction industry, ironworkers work on a project-to-project basis and frequently travel long distances from job to job.
Employment is seasonal, and employment prospects change with the economic climate, particularly with the volume of commercial and industrial construction projects.
Journeyperson wage rates vary, but generally range from $20 to $30 an hour, plus benefits.
Experienced ironworkers may advance to supervisory positions such as foreman and construction superintendent.
To work as an ironworker in Alberta, a person must be a registered apprentice, an Alberta-certified journeyperson, or hold a valid recognized credential.
Individuals possessing a valid recognized credential in Alberta are eligible to receive a Blue Seal business credential after completing the necessary requirements.
The term of apprenticeship for an ironworker is 4 years (four 12-month periods) including a minimum of 1500 hours of on-the-job training and 6 weeks of technical training each period.
- An applicant who previously completed courses of study or work experience related to the ironworker trade or holds a related journeyperson certificate and has the employer's recommendation, may qualify for credit that could reduce the term of apprenticeship. Inquiries about credit for previously completed courses of study or work experience can be directed to an apprentice representative toll-free at 1-800-248-4823.
- A person who has previous training or work experience in the trade and wants to determine their level of skill and knowledge for entry or advanced standing in an apprenticeship program may complete the online Prior Learning Assessment Application. For more information, see the online Prior Learning Assessment Guide.
- A high school student can become an apprentice and gain credits toward apprenticeship training and a high school diploma at the same time under the Registered Apprenticeship Program (RAP).
To learn the skills required of a ironworker in Alberta and be issued an Alberta Journeyman Certificate, a person must:
- satisfy the entrance requirements or pass the entrance exam (see Entrance Level Competencies, Exam Counselling Sheet, Entrance Exam Study Guide, and Entrance Exam Support Materials List), or Ironworker - Metal Building Systems Erector trade certificate
- find a suitable employer who is willing to hire and train an apprentice
Most employers prefer to hire high school graduates and may select apprentices from among their current employees.
For holders of an existing trade certificate, it can serve as your entrance requirement equivalency when registering in an additional trade.
- complete the online Apprenticeship Application and Contract
- pay the non-refundable application fee as part of the application process
- complete the required on-the-job training
- during on-the-job training, apprentice ironworkers earn at least 60 percent of the journeyperson wage rate in their place of employment in the first year, 70 percent in the second, 80 percent in the third, and 90 percent in the fourth year.
- complete all program requirements as identified in the course outline
- enroll in technical training
- select an educational institution that offers training for ironworker apprentices, and a time to attend training
- determine requirements for enrolling at the selected institution, and forward completed enrolment form to the selected institution
- review books and materials required for training
- successfully complete all required exams
Apprentices may attempt the Interprovincial Exam in the final period of their apprenticeship training and, if successful, be granted a Red Seal.
When apprentices attend technical training, they are required to pay the applicable tuition fee and purchase course supplies.
Student loans, grants, scholarships and other financial assistance may be available. For more information see Financial Assistance, visit an Apprenticeship and Industry Training office or call toll-free to 1-800-248-4823.
An ironworker who holds a valid trade certificate from Alberta or from another Canadian province or territory may apply to write the Interprovincial Exam and, if successful, be granted a Red Seal under the Interprovincial Standards Red Seal Program. The Red Seal is recognized throughout most of Canada.
Time spent on supervisory or foreman duties, counter work, heading the tool crib, or on training course is NOT counted as 'hands-on' work experience.
A person who holds a valid recognized credential does not require an Alberta equivalency document to work in the trade in Alberta.
However, some employers may require Alberta documentation as proof that the holder is allowed to work in the trade or that the holder's credential is recognized.
More information regarding the Equivalency Program can be found here.