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Ironworker (Metal Building Systems Erector)

An overview of recent changes to ironworker apprenticeship training programs is available here.


Ironworker (metal building systems erectors) fabricate, construct and join scaffolding. They are limited to work on two-story, steel-framed metal buildings generally referred to as pre-engineered buildings.

They erect pre-engineered buildings and sometimes perform reconstructive work on existing structures.

In general, metal building systems erectors:

  • 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 materials,
  • attach cables from a crane or derrick and direct crane operators with hand signals or radios,
  • position steel units, align holes and insert bolts,
  • assemble and erect pre-fabricated metal structures, and
  • check the alignments and join steel parts by bolting them.

For more information regarding tasks and activities, please review the Trade Regulation.


Working Conditions

Ironworkers (metal building systems erectors) generally work outdoors in teams or crews in remote locations as well as urban areas. Their work is physically strenuous so they must rely on each another to use good judgment as well as safety equipment and procedures to reduce the risk of injury from falling or from falling objects. 


Skills and Abilities

Successful ironworker (metal building systems erectors) enjoy developing their expertise by doing precise work in a broad range of industries and locations. They enjoy the outdoors and often like traveling and working with different crews.

To be successful in their trade, ironworker (metal building system erectors) must have:

  • the ability to interpret blueprints,
  • an understanding of safe work practices and the knowledge to safely operate the tools of the trade,
  • the ability 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, and
  • the ability to act quickly and decisively in emergencies.


Employment and Advancement

Most ironworkers (metal building systems erectors) 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 (metal building systems erectors) are self-employed. In the construction industry, ironworker (metal building systems erectors) work on a project-to-project basis and frequently travel long distances from job to job.

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 $30 to $40 an hour, plus benefits.

Experienced ironworker (metal building systems erectors) may advance to supervisory positions such as foreman and construction superintendent.


Working in Alberta

To work as an ironworker (metal building systems erector) in Alberta, a person must be a registered apprentice, an Alberta-certified journeyperson, or hold a valid recognized credential.

Metal building systems erectors learn their skills by registering with Alberta Apprenticeship and Industry Training to participate in apprenticeship training. Upon successful completion, they are awarded the Alberta Journeyman Certificate.

A metal building systems erector who holds a valid recognized credential that does not have a Red Seal may apply for:

Metal building systems erectors who:

  • hold a credential that is not recognized or is no longer valid in an Alberta-designated trade, OR
  • can demonstrate their experience, skills and knowledge in an Alberta-designated trade, and meet the standards and requirements established by the Alberta Apprenticeship and Industry Training Board

may be eligible to apply for trade certification under the Trades Qualifier Certificate Program.

Individuals possessing a valid recognized credential in Alberta are eligible to receive a Blue Seal business credential after completing the necessary requirements.


Apprenticeship Training

The term of apprenticeship for an ironworker (metal building systems erector) is two years (two 12-month periods) including a minimum of minimum of 1620 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 (metal building systems erector) 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 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 (metal building systems erector) in Alberta and be issued an Alberta Journeyman Certificate, a person must:

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 (metal building systems erectors) earn at least 60 percent of the journeyperson wage rate in their place of employment in the first and 70 percent in the second period.
  • complete all program requirements as identified in the Course Outline
  • enroll in technical training
    - select an educational institution that offers training for ironworker (metal building systems erector) apprentices, and a time to attend training
    - determine requirements for enrolling at the selected institution, and forward completed enrolment form to the selected institution
  • successfully complete all required (See Exam Counselling Sheets)
  • Technical Training Resource List
    • Each period of technical training requires apprentices to purchase specific resources and supplies.
    • Contact the training provider where you will be attending training for a complete list.

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.


Interprovincial Standards Red Seal Program

The ironworker-metal building systems erector trade does not participate in the Interprovincial Standards Red Seal Program.


Qualification Certificate Program

For a Qualification Certificate based on a recognized credential or work experience in order to prepare for the exam(s) please refer to the Exam Counselling Sheets and review available Resource Materials.

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.


Equivalency Program

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.

Click for more information on the Equivalency Program.