With the heart of an extreme athlete, ironworkers work
from the foundation to the top.
When a major structure is built, the first part of the project
that people see from miles around is the steel skeleton rising into
the sky. Ironworkers are the men and women who erect the steel columns
and beams that are the hallmark of every major building project.
However, this is just part of an ironworker’s craft. Before
the steel goes up, ironworkers actually are involved in building
the foundation. And, once the structural steel is in place, they
enclose the structure in aluminum and glass, or pre-cast stone.
Finally, they install steel stairways, handrails, parts of elevators
and many other components that make a project complete.
Other tasks include setting the iron bars (known as rebar) that
reinforce concrete foundations and floors. Ornamental ironworkers
install stairs, handrails, eye-appealing column closures and other
ornamental pieces after the structure of the building has been completed.
Ironworkers are people who like to be challenged both physically
and mentally. Some of these professionals like the excitement of
working at heights and other stay close to the ground. Each of these
men and women are highly trained and are constantly improving their
The following is a current schedule of salaries. Wages are
periodically adjusted upwards to reflect increases in cost of living.
|$29.53 - $35.29 per hour *
$31.53 - $37.79 per hour*
$31.78 - $39.29 per hour*
*Exact wage depends on the Local in which the ironworking professional
is a member In addition benefits include:
||• Full health benefits
for themselves and their family
• Vacation Fund
education, upgrade training and certifications
Ironworkers working on structural steel and reinforcing projects
work almost exclusively outdoors for an eight-hour workday that
begins early in the morning. Heavy lifting is involved but is typically
aided by cranes and other equipment. Those working at great heights
do not work during inclement weather as a safety precaution.
Safety is a primary focus of the trade, and safety devices –
nets, safety belts, and scaffolding – are used to reduce the
risk of injury.
Because of the region’s industrial and commercial growth,
the demand for ironworkers will continue to be high. According to
the federal governments Occupational Outlook Handbook, employment
for ironworkers will rise at the average of all occupations –
between 10 to 20 percent per year over the next decade.
Aside from new construction, ironworkers in this region will be
needed for the rehabilitation, maintenance and replacement of a
growing number of older building, factories, power plants, highways
Ironworker apprenticeships last 3-4 years, which includes
612-816 hours of classroom training. The ironworker training centers
in New Jersey are highly advanced facilities in which the latest
and most sophisticated equipment is used to prepare apprentices
for successful careers. One of New Jersey’s facilities is
designated as a national training facility.
Apprentices begin with an orientation at one of the four ironworker
training facilities across the state. During this orientation, they
learn the basics of the craft such as how to use essential tools,
fundamental tasks and how to interact with colleagues on site. After
the orientation, they are ready for real projects. Apprentices work
during the day, learning on the job from the experienced journeyman
they’re teamed with and then they attend class at night. Typical
class time is eight hours per week.
Apprentices are paid when they are working on the job site.
Apprentices learn a variety of skills over the three-year training
period: reading blueprints; project planning; and erecting, using
and dismantling scaffolding. At some training centers, full size
replicas of structures are used so that apprentices learn skills
in a real life environment. Much time is spent on welding techniques,
fabricating steel and performing expert structural and ornamental
Of course, because of the nature of the work, safety is a major
focus of the ironworker’s training. Along with learning to
use all safety devices, apprentices must complete 10-hours of OSHA
safety training, 40 hours of hazardous materials training and a
variety of other safety certifications.
As with all other trades, the training an ironworker’s apprenticeship
receives is free. Apprentices actually bring home a respectable
wage, earning a percentage of the journeyman’s hourly wage
when they are placed on jobs off the training site.
Average compensation for an apprentice at current wage rates (2002)
is $107,122 over the three-year training period, which is in addition
to free education. In addition to the hourly rate, apprentices receive
annuity and vacation fund disbursements equal to that of a journeyman.
Medical and pension benefits accrue at the same rate of a journeyman
while the apprentice is employed.
An applicant must be:
||• 18 years of age or older
• Present proof of citizenship or residential status
• Present a valid drivers license
• Have a high
school diploma or GED
Some local training programs may charge a nominal application fee.
Eligible applicants are required to pass a written exam, which tests
industry-related math, reading and locating skills. Applicants must
take a steel walking test, which measures if the applicant has the
necessary balance skills. They must also pass a physical and drug
In order to succeed on the written exam, students should
strive for proficiency in the following areas:
||• Reading Comprehension
• Locating Information
• Basic Math – including fractions and decimals
Ask someone to describe ironwork and they will conjure the
image of the erecting, bolting and welding steel columns and beams.
This is an image of structural ironwork.
Once the foundation is in place, structural ironworkers start connecting
the steel columns and beams. In erecting the structural skeleton,
ironworkers must follow blueprints precisely. To connect the steel,
ironworkers first hoist the steel into place in the framework, position
the steel with connecting bars and jacks, and then align the holes
in the steel beam with the holes in the steel columns. They then
bolt the pieces in place.
What exactly is rebar? It is short for reinforcing bars,
which fortify the concrete that composes building foundations, highways
and bridge spans. If you’ve ever seen a foundation of a building
in the middle of construction, you’ve probably seen the iron
rods crisscrossing the concrete. Placing this rebar is the job of
In performing rebar work, ironworkers set the bars in the forms
that hold the concrete by following blueprints showing the location,
size and number of bars. They then fasten the bars together by tying
wire around them with pliers. In preparing the rebar, ironworkers
may have to cut them with metal sheers or torches, bend them by
hand or machine, or weld them with arc-welding equipment.
After the structural steel skeleton is complete, ironworkers
aren’t finished. They have important roles to play in the
completion of the entire building.
Ornamental ironworkers install what is often referred to as the
“skin” of a building: curtain (exterior) walls and window
frames, and the decorative trim. They also install the stairs, handrails,
elevator doorways and other components that complete a structure
– which is why ornamental ironworkers are called “finishers.”
These specialist even erect monuments and architectural sculptures,
which highlight their keen eye for detail and craftsmanship.
Some ironworkers specialize as riggers and play an essential
role in moving material and equipment. Riggers load, unload, move
and set machinery, structural steel, curtain walls, and other materials.
The roots of this part of the trade actually go back centuries.
The builders of ancient wonders like the Pyramids and Stonehenge
used techniques and principles used by today’s riggers to
move the large rocks and stone into place.
They often work together with the operating engineers who drive
the cranes, derricks and forklifts that move the heavy material
around the project site.
|Students interested in a career as an ironworker
||Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Middlesex, Monmouth,
Morris, Passaic, Ocean, Somerset, Sussex and Union counties.
||Ron Repmann, Training Coordinator
||Northern NJ District Council of Ironworkers
12 Edison Place
Springfield, NJ 07081
||(973) 376-7230 www.ironworkersnj.com
||Mercer, Burlington, and parts of Somerset,
Middlesex, Hunterdon, Monmouth, Ocean, and Bucks County, PA
||Mark Docie, Training Coordinator
||Ironworkers, Local 68
2595 Yardville Hamilton Square Road
Trenton, NJ 08690
||Gloucester, Salem, Camden and part of
||Paul Lenkowski, Apprentice Coordinator
||Ironworkers, Local #399
490 Crown Point Road
Westville, NJ 08093
||Atlantic, Cape May and parts of Cumberland
||Joe Weeks, Apprentice Coordinator
||Ironworkers, Local #350
3924 West End Avenue
Atlantic City, NJ 08401
World Class Training Facility
New Jersey is home to some of the most advanced ironworker training
centers in the nation. The Springfield facility serves as one of
only three national training centers. As a national training center,
the facility is the place where instructors from up and down the
East Coast are trained.