Ironworkers are skilled construction experts who fabricate, install, and repair various metal structures. Professionals usually specialize in a certain type of ironwork, such as initially cutting, shaping, and fabricating raw materials, setting rebar into concrete forms, assembling structures, or building nonstructural or ornamental pieces, such as handrails. Ironworker jobs can be found with metal fabrication shops, wholesale distributors of building materials, construction companies, and municipal governments.
Expert fabricators hold ironworker jobs at private metalwork shops and large manufacturing and distributing plants. Workers cut, bend, weld, and smooth construction materials from raw sheets and slabs of iron and other metals. Large plants that mass produce materials often hire ironworkers to perform very specialized tasks, such as measuring and drilling holes or machining large quantities of nuts and bolts. Professionals typically employ a number of hand and power tools in their work, including shears, power saws, torches, and drills.
The majority of ironworker jobs are found with construction companies and private contracting enterprises, where individuals assemble and connect prefabricated materials to build the framework for different types of structures. Ironworkers usually follow blueprints and utilize equipment such as cranes and forklifts to put heavy iron columns in place on top of concrete foundations. They secure the columns with specialized bolts and begin constructing the rest of the framework, carefully welding or bolting pieces together in detailed steps. Ironwork on tall structures or during inclement weather can be very dangerous, so workers usually wear protective equipment and attach themselves to safety lines to prevent falls.
Many professionals employed by city governments and construction companies perform reinforcing ironwork. Experts set rebar and other structural metals into foundations for roads, tunnels, bridges, and other structures. Many reinforcing ironworkers perform routine maintenance repairs, and renovations on existing structures to ensure their safety and structural integrity.
Ornamental ironworkers are highly skilled at creating metal pieces that are not directly part of a building's framework. For example, expert ironworkers might build handrails, doors and frames, and stair sets to be installed in a finished building. Some ornamental ironworkers even specialize in creating artistic pieces out of iron, steel, and other materials.
To obtain most ironworker jobs, individuals must hold high school diplomas and complete a period of classroom and formal, on-the-job training as apprentices. Most apprenticeships take three to four years to complete, during which time workers learn about the different tools, techniques, safety measures, and emergency procedures involved with the job by experienced ironworkers. Individuals who successfully complete apprenticeships become qualified to receive journey worker certification and begin applying for different ironworker jobs.