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What Does a Sheet Metal Worker Do?

Sheet metal workers measure, shape and cut sheets of metal.
A sheet metal worker might operate a crane to move pieces of metal into place.
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  • Written By: D. Jeffress
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 26 July 2014
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A sheet metal worker might be employed at a metal fabrication plant or construction site, where he or she helps build and install different types of metal structures and equipment. Sheet metal workers are required to follow blueprints and use their expert knowledge to safely construct metal buildings, roofs, ventilation systems, and other important structures. A small project, such as a home heating and ventilation system, may require the skills of a single worker, while entire crews may be necessary for large construction projects.

Manufacturing and fabrication shops hire sheet metal workers to cut, bend, and shape thin pieces of metal. Some sheet metal workers in the manufacturing industry work on assembly lines, where they have very specific, repetitive tasks such as punching holes for screws or bending gutters. Many fabricators use computer programs and specialized machinery to help them perform their jobs more accurately and efficiently.

In the construction industry, sheet metal workers perform all of the jobs necessary to build large metal structures. They measure, cut, and weld metal pieces according to specifications, position them in place with cranes, forklifts, and derricks, and connect pieces together using rivets and steel screws. Sheet metal workers might be required to cut and fit insulation, or create space for doorways, windows, and skylights. In addition, workers often perform maintenance and repairs on existing structures.

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To become a sheet metal worker, a person must typically have a high school diploma or GED, and demonstrate a strong work ethic and aptitude for construction. Many people choose to hone their skills at a community college or vocational school. Depending on the type of school, a future sheet metal worker may engage in up to two years of classroom and practical training, where he or she learns about safety procedures, different tools, and specialized metalwork techniques. Upon completion of a training program, a person typically begins his or her sheet metal worker career as an assistant at a construction or manufacturing company. Assistants are frequently required to retrieve and store tools, take measurements, and cut sheets while gaining practical knowledge from experienced sheet metal workers.

Another option for a beginning sheet metal worker is to assume a formal apprenticeship at a construction company. Apprenticeships typically last about four years, and involve paid, on-the-job training by professional sheet metal workers. Upon the successful completion of an apprenticeship, a new sheet metal worker becomes eligible for certification by a nationally recognized certifying board. Certification improves a worker's chances of securing a steady job in the sheet metal industry.

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Discuss this Article

croydon
Post 3

@pleonasm - I guess that's the reason sheet metal worker wages vary so much. You've got everything along the spectrum from the factory line, to highly skilled artisans.

I actually know someone who took their ability to work with sheet metal and used it to sculpt scrap metal into works of art that sold really well.

pleonasm
Post 2

@clintflint - That is probably the most important quality, but it does depend on the job as to what other qualities are needed. In some cases the worker might just be doing a simple, repetitive job over and over.

In other cases, they can be doing things like making the bodywork of luxury cars (which are often handmade and fitted) and that requires ability and maybe even an artistic bent in order to be done well.

I do think that a good attitude is going to get your foot in the door to this kind of work though.

clintflint
Post 1

I guess the most important factor to look for in hiring someone to be a sheet metal worker would be work ethic. You really need someone who is going to be as careful and attentive as possible all the time.

It doesn't seem like the kind of job where you can be lazy or careless and get away with it. Working with sheet metal worker tools and machinery can be dangerous and not only for the person using them.

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