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Iron Workers

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Ironworkers

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 skill.

Salary & Benefits
The following is a current schedule of salaries. Wages are periodically adjusted upwards to reflect increases in cost of living.
Journeyman
Foreman
Lead Foreman
$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
• Pension
• Annuity fund
• Vacation Fund
• Continuing education, upgrade training and certifications

Working Conditions
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.

Career Outlook/ Opportunities
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 and bridges.

Apprenticeship
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 work.

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.

Qualifications for Apprenticeship
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 screening.

Written Exam Preparations:
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

Specialties

Structural Ironwork
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.

Reinforcing Iron and Rebar
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 ironworkers.
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.

Ornamental Ironwork
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.

Rigging
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.


Where to Go:

Ironworkers:
Students interested in a career as an ironworker should contact:
  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
  (609) 586-6801
  Gloucester, Salem, Camden and part of Cumberland counties
  Paul Lenkowski, Apprentice Coordinator
  Ironworkers, Local #399
490 Crown Point Road
Westville, NJ 08093
  (856) 456-9323
  Atlantic, Cape May and parts of Cumberland
  Joe Weeks, Apprentice Coordinator
  Ironworkers, Local #350
3924 West End Avenue
Atlantic City, NJ 08401

Sidebars

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.