Sheet metal workers work with many different types of products made of sheet metal. They produce, install, and repair these products. Fabrication work involves selecting the correct material, inspecting blueprints, making sketches, and following verbal instructions. They mark the material, cut it with power cutting tools, then assemble the pieces and weld the parts together. After it is assembled, they often polish the surface or complete other finishing work. When repairing sheet metal products, they find the problem and modify the piece as needed. When installing products, they maneuver the piece and then set it in place.
Most sheet metal workers work for sheet-metal equipment contractors on residential, commercial, and industrial projects. They install heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning systems and produce tanks, hoppers, machine guards, chutes, and conveyers. Because most sheet metal parts are produced in standard sizes and shapes, the parts can be assembled quickly and modified at the job site. Some workers are employed in private and Federal shipyards as well as railroad shops. Some large firms employ mechanics who also have sheet metal skills to serve as general maintenance personnel.
Those interested in sheet metal worker positions should be in excellent physical condition, as the job is very physically demanding. They need to have an aptitude for mechanical and mathematical work. They must also have spatial and form perception, manual dexterity, good eyesight, and well-developed hand-eye coordination.
The earnings of sheet metal workers varies depending on the location and whether they belong to a union. Workers earn a median hourly wage of $16, with a 5% increase every 6 months until journey-level status is attained. They earn overtime, which is usually time and a half. Many workers are only employed during peak construction seasons. Most sheet metal workers receive benefits such as paid vacation, sick leave, and insurance.
Training and Education
In order to reach the status of journey-level, sheet metal workers must usually complete a formal apprenticeship program that lasts 4 years. These programs are typically sponsored by the local Sheet Metal Joint Apprenticeship Committee. They are composed of a mix of on-the-job experience and classroom instruction. In order to be accepted into an apprenticeship program, applicants must have a high school diploma or equivalent, they must complete a written test, and they must pass a personal interview. High school students interested in this career should take courses in algebra, trigonometry, geometry, mechanical drawing, ,and metal shop. A few sheet metal workers enter the profession by starting as helpers and completing informal on-the-job training from their employers.
Some employers require employees to provide their own sets of hand tools. Sheet metal workers can advance to higher positions, especially if they gain additional knowledge in welding, blueprint reading, heating, and air-conditioning. Workers can advance to become supervisors, estimators, or managers. Some obtain sheet metal contractor’s licenses and start their own businesses. Visit this page about trade schools for more information on related careers.
Between 2002 and 2012, employment of sheet metal workers is expected to increase about as fast as the average. This will be due to demand for energy efficient air-conditioning, heating, and ventilation systems, as well as the increased use of sheet metal products in decoration and architectural restoration. Most job openings occur during peak construction times, usually March through November. Because much of this work is done indoors, sheet metal workers are less susceptible to loss of work due to inclement weather.