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Ornamental Ironworker


Description

Ornamental ironworkers install, repair and service structural ironwork, precast concrete, curtain walls, ornamental iron and other metals used in the construction of buildings, bridges and other structures and equipment.

Ornamental ironworkers install metal windows into masonry or wooden openings of a building. They also erect the curtain wall and window wall systems that cover the steel or reinforced concrete structure of a building, which is sometimes referred to as the skin of the building. Ornamental ironworkers also install and erect metal stairways, catwalks, gratings, ladders, doors of all types, railings, fencing, gates, metal screens, elevator fronts, platforms and entranceways. A variety of materials are used in fabricating this type of work, for example, aluminum, steel, bronze and composites. Ornamental ironworkers finish all ironwork projects.

In general, ornamental ironworkers will go over blueprint drawings to figure out the work that needs to be done and then organize the materials. They erect or install scaffolding, construction cranes, derricks and other hoisting equipment in order to begin construction work. They may sometimes insert temporary bolts and erect pre-fabricated metal structures to get a general idea of the structure before making it permanent. Then, they must cut, bend, position and secure steel bars or wire mesh in concrete forms to reinforce the concrete. In the end, ornamental workers add the finishing touches to the construction.

Ornamental ironworkers use heavy and sometimes bulky materials, so it is important that workers be in good physical condition, with the ability to lift heavy objects. Those suffering from vertigo or those who fear heights, may want to find another trade because ironworkers generally tend to work from great heights. Also, the position can be quite hard on the body and workers may be subject to extreme weather conditions, including rain, ice, snow and extreme winds. Consequently, ornamental ironworkers must take all safety precautions, including the use of safety belts, scaffolding and nets to reduce the risk of serious injury.

Finally, some may consider ornamental ironworkers artists. They craft metal into beautiful ornamental pieces, such as intricate hand-forged gates, plant hangers, fences, and railings. Some also do this kind of work as a hobby, while working on larger structures as their primary job.
 
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  Average Earnings  
Lowest 10% of Earners:
$22,485
 
Median Salary:
$40,664
 
Highest 10% of Earners:
$66,165

  Interests and Skills  
Ornamental ironworkers must have a technical mind to interpret blueprints but also a creative mind and ability to make art out of metals. They need an understanding of safe work practices and the knowledge to safely operate the tools of the trade. Most ornamental ironworkers are generally in good shape with muscular coordination, agility and balance. They have to be able to life heavy metals and must have an inclination to work cooperatively with others. Successful ornamental ironworkers enjoy developing their expertise by doing precise work in a broad range of industries and locations, especially outdoors.
 

  Typical Tasks  
  • Read drawings and specifications to lay out the work
  • Unload and stack steel units so each piece can be hoisted as needed
  • Erect and install scaffolding, hoisting equipment and rigging
  • Signal crane operator to position steel units according to blueprints
  • Align and weld or bolt steel units in place
  • Erect structural and architectural precast concrete components for buildings, bridges, towers and other structures
  • Assemble and erect prefabricated metal structures
  • Position and secure steel bars or metal mesh in concrete forms to reinforce concrete structures
  • Install ornamental and other structural metalwork such as curtain walls, metal stairways, railings and power doors
  • Ornamental ironworkers generally work outdoors in teams or crews in all types of locations, with some time spent in a metal shop. The installation work is physically strenuous and often dangerous, sometimes at great heights. They must rely on crewmates to use good judgment as well as safety equipment and procedures to reduce the risk of injury from falling or from falling objects.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Most ornamental ironworkers work for construction contractors, but some are employed in industries such as metal fabricating, oil and gas production, iron and steel production, electric utilities and rail transport. Very few ironworkers are self-employed, however some may own a metal shop with special tools and equipment.
  • Within the construction industry, ornamental ironworkers work on a project-to-project basis. Union members work out of union hiring halls where work is allocated on a rotating basis. Employment may be seasonal and employment prospects change with the economic climate, particularly with the volume of commercial and industrial construction projects.

  Long Term Career Potential  
Experienced ornamental ironworkers may advance to supervisory positions such as foreman and construction superintendent. With additional training, they can transfer their skills to related occupations such as boilermaker, elevator constructor, millwright, sheet metal worker, structural steel and plate fitter or welder.
 

  Educational Paths  
Ornamental ironworkers receive their training either through informal, on-the-job training or through an apprenticeship program. Trade certification can be obtained either through an apprenticeship program or after several years of work experience. While trade certification is not mandatory in all areas to become an ornamental ironworker, it can be a requirement for many employers and can also help secure employment.

Apprenticeship programs involve a combination of on-the-job training and classroom instruction. A pre-apprenticeship course may also be available which takes about five to six months to complete at a community college and is designed to help you get connected with a good company to apprentice with. It is important to apprentice with a reputable company as that is your education. While some apprenticeship programs may not require a high school diploma, it is important to note that employers generally prefer to hire high school graduates.

Apprenticeships can vary, however a typical apprenticeship lasts four to five years. The apprenticeship is a paid position, however wages are about 50 percent of what an employer pays the journeyperson, with yearly increases. After successfully completing the apprenticeship requirements, their industry training and apprenticeship office awards the ornamental ironworker a certificate of completion.
 

Sources:
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002, http://www.bls.gov/oes/2002/oes_nat.htm

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