From designing and building HVAC systems to crafting
decorative metal work, sheet metal professionals practice a trade with endless opportunities.
The next time you're sitting comfortably in a climate controlled office or
classroom, think of the maze of duct lines that is carrying the cooled or heated air around the building. Then, think of the men and women who designed,
crafted and installed this ductwork: sheet metal professionals.
While sheet metal professionals design, craft and install a wide variety of
products - from aircraft and train components to architectural sheet metal work -- the most common projects are heating, ventilation and air conditioning
Sheet metal professionals don't only assemble these HVAC systems - they design the duct system, craft the components and test the system for optimum efficiency.
The process begins at a drafting table or a computer with CAD (computer aided design) software, where a sheet metal professional designs the duct system. The drafter determines the size of the ducts and what route they will take to deliver air to each room of the building. CAD software enables the drafter to render his or her plans in a three-dimensional format.
Using these detailed plans, each component of the system is custom crafted in a shop. Because each building is unique and dimensions of each section must be precise, mass manufactured components are rarely used. Utilizing special saws, shears and presses - journeymen cut, stamp, bend, weld and fasten the sheet metal into the components necessary to fulfill the design.
After the components are delivered to the job site and installed, sheet metal professionals conduct what is known as TAB - testing, adjusting and balancing. In this final stage of the process, sheet metal professionals ensure that the system is functioning properly, adjust the system controls to provide the ideal level of heated or cooled airflow, and balance the system to ensure each
building zone receives is specified share of airflow.
With the demand for more efficient HVAC systems and the constant evolution of technology, sheet metal workers are always challenged to stay up-to-date on industry developments. Most sheet metal professionals will fabricate, install and test over the course of their career - often performing all three stages on the same project.
About 15 percent of the profession involves architectural sheet metal work, which enhances a building's durability and attractiveness. The first priority of architectural sheet metal is to weather and waterproof buildings, particularly at the ground level, where moisture seepage through the floor can significantly erode the attractiveness and durability of a building.
Architectural sheet metal also can add aesthetically to a building. Skilled sheet metal professionals can fabricate decorative accents and sculptures using
various metals like copper, aluminum and stainless steel.
Sheet metal professionals also play a role in building interiors of chemical,
energy and manufacturing plants. Sheet metal pros don't construct the hulls
of ships or fuselages of airplanes, but sheet metal is a significant part of the rest of the ship or aircraft (fuel tanks, galleys, restrooms, food service
containers). Other industries that use sheet metal pros are appliance and
One of the primary - if not the primary - factors in choosing a career is the compensation - salary and benefits. Sheet metal professionals make a very attractive wage, and the trade like others provides opportunities for advancement to supervisory positions that increase the base wage.
The following is a range of hourly wages paid throughout New Jersey. The specific wage depends on where the sheet metal professional works.
|$36.37 to $37.94 per hour
$38.37 to $39.94 per hour
$39.37 to $40.94 per hour
$41.94 per hour
||• Family Health Insurance
• Supplemental Unemployment
• Journeyperson education
Sheet Metal work is performed in a variety of conditions. Drafting is done at a computer terminal or desk. Crafting sheet metal components is done in a shop. Installation can be done indoors or outdoors, and is often performed
There is some heavy lifting, though both men and women can excel at this craft. Safe work habits are required for welding and working around electricity.
According to the Federal Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH), the anticipated rapid employment growth in the sheet metal field will provide excellent opportunities in this trade. The OOH projects a 21 to 35 percent increase in job opportunities for sheet metal professionals, faster than the average for all occupations through 2010.
This projection reflects the growth in the installation of more energy-efficient air-conditioning, heating, and ventilation systems in the increasing stock of old buildings, as well as the expected demand from new construction projects.
The OOH also expects the growing popularity of decorative sheet metal projects and increased architectural restoration to add to the demand for skilled crafters.
A sheet metal apprenticeship lasts four years, requiring a total of 8,000 hours of on-the-job training and 800 hours in the classroom.
Classroom training begins with fundamentals of the craft and safety courses. Since sheet metal workers do a great deal of welding and work at heights, teaching apprentices proper safety procedures is a top priority. Over the course of four years of classroom training, apprentices learn how to fabricate sheet metal components; mathematics necessary to perform all design, fabrication and installation tasks; welding; blue print reading; layout and design; drafting; computer assisted design (CAD) drafting; and testing,
adjusting and balancing (TAB).
Instructors are trained by the International Training Institute, ensuring that apprentices receive the finest and most up-to-date sheet metal instruction in the world. Welding is learned in American Welding Society certified welding labs to ensure proper safety and comprehensive skill development.
As soon as their training begins, apprentices are assigned to a qualified
contractor, where they work alongside skilled journeymen who guide them in their training. As with most trades, an apprentice's on-the-job training starts with the most rudimentary tasks and steadily progresses to performing more sophisticated methods and techniques as the apprenticeship continues. Apprentices first learn how to properly operate hand tools and power machinery, and practice the art of welding.
On the job, sheet metal apprentices practice all facets of the craft - drafting, fabrication and installation. Over the course of the four years, apprentices spend half their time learning all phases of shop fabrication and installation (2,000 hours each). Apprentices spend 250 hours working on the basics of drafting and reading blueprints.
The sheet metal apprentices do not have to pay tuition.
Aside from free training, apprentices are paid a salary and receive benefits immediately upon starting their on-the-job training. Apprentices earn between 45 and 50 percent of the journeyman rate at the start, depending on the area of the State where they work. After successfully completing the first year, the apprentice hourly wage increases steadily each year. Depending on the area of the State in which the apprentice works, they may also be paid for attending classes.
After fulfilling apprenticeship requirements, applicants will be given a test designed specifically for the sheet metal training programs. The exam will test an applicant's proficiency in general mathematics and reading comprehension.
||• 18 years of age (can be 17 years old at time of application)
• Valid drivers license
• High school diploma or GED
• Resident for at least 12 months before application
• Applicants will be given a physical examination and submit to drug and alcohol testing.
The ideal sheet metal apprentice candidate will:
||• Display good math and geometric skill
• Be mechanically inclined
• Like to craft things with their hands
• Show proficiency in drafting and mechanical drawing
Atlantic, Burlington, Cape May, Cumberland, Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth and Ocean Counties:
Sheet Metal Workers Local 27 JATC
322 Squankum Yellowbrook Road
Farmingdale, NJ 07727
Bergen, Hudson, Passaic, Morris, Sussex, Somerset, Essex and Union Counties:
440 Barell Avenue
Carlstadt, NJ 07072
106 South Avenue West
Cranford, NJ 07016
(908) 931-1798 x12 or 14
Camden, Gloucester, Salem and Warren Counties
Local 19 Training Center
1301 South Columbus Blvd.
Philadelphia, PA 19147