Pursuing a Career in Steel and Iron Structure A career in steel and iron structure blends practical skills, physical endurance, great organizational aptitude, and attention to detail. Structural iron and steel workers bring life to high-rise and multistorey buildings, skyscrapers, as well as highways, and other important structures by performing cumbersome work. They are also known as ironworkers or erectors. Such an occupation is considered a specialist trade due to the incredible amount of training required to perform the construction site’s job. What Do Structural Steel and Ironworkers Do? Structural steel and ironworkers give form to bridges and build roads by installing iron or steel beams. These metals are vital components of such structures and other types of infrastructure that we use daily, since they offer resilience to extreme weather conditions and form the basis for additional design elements. Structural steel workers perform their work from mobile elevated work platforms and man riders, allowing them to easily access higher and remote sections of large structures. Despite just giving shape to new buildings, structural workers also help with rehabilitation, maintenance, or even demolition of older structures. Typically, steelworkers erect and connect supporting girders, beams, and columns while operating cranes that transfer materials and equipment to different areas or building stories. Their training adequately prepares them to raise, place and unite iron or steel girders, erect storage tanks by using hand, power, and hydraulic lifting tools and machines. Some are also responsible for assembling hoisting equipment and rigging, including cables, pulleys, and hooks. Some valuable structural steel equipment is introduced below. The manufacturing of such products and equipment occurs away from the construction site: Reinforcing steel provides strength to concrete that forms highways, bridges, and other buildings. Cables are useful for reinforcing concrete by pre-or post-tensioning. As a result, designers can create larger open areas because supports and columns can be placed within a larger distance. Welded wire is also used to strengthen and tighten concrete. It is made of narrow-diameter rods or wire welded into a grid. A day in a structural steelworker’s life demands great precaution and the ability to operate and move materials and equipment efficiently and safely. People working in this industry had to overcome their natural fear of heights and adopt a project-oriented mentality from the very beginning. On a daily basis, structural steelworkers are responsible for using shears, rod-bending machines, and welding tools to cut, bend and weld structural and reinforcing steel. Furthermore, they must be able to align and adjust structural steel or iron vertically or horizontally with tag lines, plumb bobs, lasers, and levels. They are also tasked with unloading and stacking prefabricated steel to be lifted with slings. Moreover, they operate vehicles, such as forklifts or passenger vehicles. What Specific Skills Do Structural Steel Workers Have? Besides the physical workload, structural steelworkers must also possess exceptional communication skills to carry out cumbersome projects effectively and safely. Communication is the key pillar to effectively monitoring and completing a specific task. Communicating with supervisors and peers also makes the process easier since everyone has something to contribute to the final product. Structural steelworkers must also perform inspections on structures and materials to detect problems with defective equipment. They frequently evaluate information to ensure it complies with laws, standards, and processes. Structural steelworkers should also know basic repairing skills for maintaining mechanical equipment in case specific machines break down. Understanding how different mechanical parts are connected and being able to service, repair, and adjust those components, will save a lot of time, money, and effort. Finally, basic knowledge of arithmetic, algebra, geometry, calculus, and statistics is vital for deciphering specific blueprint aspects and turning them into real-life projects. What Is the Employment Outlook for Structural Steel Workers? Fortunately enough for structural steelworkers, the construction of large projects and investment in infrastructure will continue to grow over the next few years. In hindsight, employment rates will also rise as the need to restore, maintain and replace old roads, buildings, and bridges will also increase. The projected employment growth for the structural steel sector is 5% over the next ten years, which surpasses the average growth rate of other professions. The Bureau of Labor Statistics specifically predicts a 4.7 percent employment growth for structural iron and steelworkers between 2019 and 2029. As it is expected, 3,600 steel structure jobs would become available. Another interesting fact about this occupation is that it is ranked on the seventh spot among the highest paying jobs that don’t require a degree. While the employment outlook for structural steelworkers seems promising, we cannot overlook that it is one of the most physically demanding jobs in the market. Additionally, employees might have to work under extreme weather conditions. Some work at really high altitudes but are tasked with performing less burdensome work to protect their safety. These employees usually wear safety harnesses, hard hats, boots, gloves, and safety glasses. Under adverse circumstances, they are responsible for moving, bending, cutting, and connecting iron or steel to effectively fulfill the bulk of projects under tight schedules. They normally work full-time and may have to travel to job sites, depending on their employment contract requirements. What About Education and Training? In terms of job training, they usually attend an apprenticeship or on-the-job training, which lasts 3-4 years and involves 144 hours of tech training and 2,000 hours of on-site experience and learning. Apprenticeships are extremely valuable for safety training, while a high school diploma is usually the basic prerequisite to complete the training. Typically, the courses that are taught during this four-year learning period are math, blueprint reading, sketching, and welding. Trainees also learn to construct metal frameworks and measure, cut, and lay rebar. Unions and contractor associations usually sponsor these apprenticeships. These sponsors delineate specific standards and requirements for applying for a job as a structural erector. They must be at least 18 years old, physically fit, and capable of performing laborious work. Usually, they can begin work after the apprenticeship without supervision, but some employees receive training that varies in length by their employer. Some of the largest employers that are seeking qualified candidates in structural iron and steel jobs are the following: Foundation, structure, and building exterior contractors Nonresidential building construction Building equipment contractors Heavy and civil engineering construction Manufacturing Despite the value of apprenticeships, one can further enhance their skillset with multiple certifications and licenses specific for welding jobs. Such additional training programs help expose steelworkers to more employers while improving their prospects for more income. With enough experience, they can also become supervisors or managers. The American Welding Society and the National Center for Construction Education and Research are prominent organizations that offer various welding certifications. Why You Should Choose a Career in Structural Steel Becoming a structural steelworker requires the right balance between specific soft and hard skills. Problem-solving skills and great organizational skills are the cornerstones of a successful career in structural erection. Keeping projects aligned with visions, objectives, and expected outcomes should be at the core of every occupation, but structural steelworkers must give more emphasis to ensuring the highest standards are met. Physical stamina and depth perception are also two qualifications that must be met. Employees must bear the strength and resilience to endure many working hours and connect cumbersome beams. Simultaneously, they must estimate the exact distance between objects and themselves to work safely and signal crane operators who move large beams. Static strength and multi-limb coordination are indispensable skills as well. The ability to lift, push, pull and carry large girders and materials is the single most crucial part of the job. Additionally, using arms and legs with great agility will help structural steelworkers hold, tie equipment together quickly and precisely. Organizational acumen, physical strength, and manual dexterity are essential for landing a job in this domain. The future of the structural steel industry appears promising for prospective employees. As mentioned before, overall employment in this sector is projected to grow faster. Steel and reinforced concrete are vital parts of commercial and industrial infrastructure, as they constitute the structural backbone of buildings, roads, and bridges. While stress and overextension might dissuade some candidates from pursuing a structural steel career, it is nevertheless a path that guarantees upward mobility and flexibility. If you are up for a challenging and rewarding structural steel career that requires a high level of concentration and practical skills, consider structural steel!