Ironworkers are involved in erecting buildings and bridges as well as other structures. They follow blueprints to hoist and install structural steel as well as precast concrete, concrete reinforcing materials and other metals used in construction. They set up the framework of a building by positioning steel girders or other structural elements and then bolting them into place. Ironworkers are usually employed by construction companies and sub-contractors and their wages depend on a variety of factors such as demand and skill levels.
A reinforcing rodworker is a person who fabricates, handles, sorts, cuts, bends, rigs, places, burns, welds, stresses, grouts and ties all material used to reinforce concrete construction.
In addition, a reinforcing rodworker installs mechanical splices for reinforcing steel bars and performs cad and thermite welding for the splicing of reinforcing steel bars. A reinforcing rodworker reads and understands all structural and placing drawings and bar lists that are related to the work being done.
Although structural steel work is the basis of the ironworkers’ trade, you may find yourself carrying out a number of other tasks related to construction. You may assemble prefabricated buildings, do some welding or reinforce concrete by inserting metal bars or mesh into it while it is setting. You may be called upon to install steel studs for framing interior walls or to adjust and position steel joists to support concrete floors or ceilings.You may also find yourself working with ornamental steel or other structural metals work such as railings, power doors, metal stairways and hand rails.
“Ironwork is a multi-faceted trade that attracts people who like variety.You have to be able to do a little bit of everything.”
As an ironworker, you will be the first to arrive at a building site. The work you do will make it possible for other workers in other trades to complete their tasks. Ironwork is both physically demanding. You may find yourself working outside at great heights. You will also be hoisting and positioning steel units or heavy concrete forms.
This job is about independent work and initiative. It’s about staying focused and being a pro. It’s also about safety and about working as a team. This career demands thought and planning. You have to be able to read and understand blueprints in order to position the steel or concrete units properly. You also have to be able to understand the often- complicated processed involved in building scaffolding and rigging. Rigging poses a special problem since the cables must be able to bear heavy weights, and these must be calculated ahead of time.
Apprentices have a long history dating back to ancient Greece, when young workers entered a term of service, now called indentureship, to a skilled tradesman to learn the craft. Things are much the same today. Currently, an apprentice is an employee who learns a skilled trade through planned, supervised work on-the-job, while at the same time receiving related technical classroom instruction. Apprentices are required to sign an indenture agreement with their Local Apprenticeship Committee (LAC) that spells out the requirements and expectations of an apprentice.
Apprentices are taught the proper use, care and safe handling of the tools and equipment used in connection with their work and, of course the important skills necessary to become a successful tradesperson.
While working on-the-job and acquiring skills, apprentices become part of the work force, working with contractors and co-workers. Apprentices are also required to attend school and complete the prescribed courses related to the trade in order to complement their on-the-job training. You will receive an evaluation about every 3 months to determine if you are learning the craft. If the on-the-job or school work is not satisfactory, you risk being dropped from the program or sent back to repeat that segment of training. If, however, the work is good, you will receive a pay raise. That’s right – pay raises usually occur every 6 months / 1,000 hours!
Most apprenticeships last 3 or 4 years depending on the Local Union’s requirements. An ideal schedule provides equal training in structural, reinforcing, ornamental, welding and rigging. The actual length of training for each subject may vary depending on the type of work that is in highest demand in the local area.
Apprentices are required to receive at least 210 hours of classroom and shop instruction during every year of training. The subjects taken in the shop and classroom complement the hands-on training you receive in the field. Subjects include blueprint reading, care and safe use of tools, mathematics, safety procedures and systems, welding and oxy-acetylene flame cutting.
A career in Ironworking or Reinforcing Rodworker provides the opportunity to follow your drive, skills and interests up the ladder of success. As a matter of fact, an apprentice today can become the foreman, superintendent and contractor of tomorrow. Once an apprentice advances to journeyman status, the ambitious tradesperson doesn’t need to stop progressing. As you improve your skills, supervisory positions like foreman or superintendent can become available. And, other opportunities like becoming an apprentice instructor or taking an active role in union leadership are available for those who enjoy working with others.
Of course, advancement depends on the merits of the individual, but there is really no limit for those who are motivated to move up the ladder. A survey showed that 90 percent of the top officials of construction companies who replied – presidents, vice-presidents, owners and partners – began their careers as apprentices.