Career Profile: Ironworker
Ironworkers in Ontario install steel and iron beams during the construction of buildings. Ironworkers are commonly required to work at great heights, requiring them to be harnessed. Another word for an ironworker is a ‘steel worker’ or ‘structural iron worker’.
This is a very important job in the development and construction of buildings, bridges, and numerous other structures. For example, erecting a tall structure like a skyscraper, an ironworker is required to assemble the cranes and derricks to move structural steel, to reinforce the bars, concrete, lumber and other materials. Though the majority of the work is to build, sometimes ironworkers are sought to assist in the demolition, decommissioning, or rehabilitation of older buildings and bridges.
Some ironworkers are also trained in assembly and fabrication. Among ironworkers in Ontario, nearly half work in the foundation, structure, and building with exterior contractors. Roughly 23 percent are employed in non-residential building construction. The work is physically demanding and, at times, dangerous. They work outside the majority of the time and an ironworker must be accustomed to working under different weather conditions.
Education or Experience required
Most ironworkers learn on the job through apprenticeships however some certifications are recommended, particularly those in welding and rigging which can be helpful in securing employment. Due to the nature of working at such a height, these are integral to an ironworker.
Apprenticeships can last as long as three or four years. Almost all apprenticeship programs fixate on reinforcing and structural ironworking. Through an apprenticeship, expect to learn how to use the common tools and equipment of the trade; measuring, cutting, and laying rebar; and how to construct metal frameworks. There is some technical training required in the form of basic mathematics, blueprint reading, general construction techniques, safety practices, and a First Aid certification requirement.
Certifications in welding, rigging, and crane signaling increase an ironworker’s employment opportunities.
The job outlook for an ironworker shows an industry that continues to experience massive growth. Job opportunities are expected to grow by as much as 22 percent in the next decade.
This job growth is largely driven by the need to replace older highways and bridges, as well as the willingness of provincial and federal governments to fund these type of infrastructure projects. Ironworkers are also required in the construction of commercial and industrial buildings, creating additional demand for ironworkers.
The lowest pay offered to ironworkers is in the $26,000-$28,000 range. The average annual salary for ironworkers ranges from $46,000 to $50,000. More experienced ironworkers may earn as high as $83,000 and above. Many apprenticeships offer a lower wage, with standard pay increases scheduled as an ironworker learns to do more in their designated category.
As with most jobs involved in construction, being employed as an ironworker is sensitive to the time of year as well as the economy. When the levels of construction fall, an ironworker may experience a period of unemployment. On the other side of the coin, there may be shortages of ironworkers during peak periods.
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