How to Become a Sheet Metal Worker
Sheet metal workers learn their trade through an apprenticeship or on-the-job training, or at a technical school.
Sheet metal workers who work in construction typically learn their trade through an apprenticeship. Those who work in manufacturing often learn on the job or at a technical school.
Most sheet metal workers have a high school diploma or equivalent. Those interested in becoming a sheet metal worker should take high school classes in algebra, geometry, and general vocational education courses including blueprint reading, mechanical drawing, and welding.
Many technical schools have programs that teach welding and metalworking. These programs help provide the basic welding and sheet metal fabrication knowledge that many workers need to perform their job.
Some manufacturers have partnerships with local technical schools to develop training programs specific to their factories.
Most construction sheet metal workers learn their trade through 4- or 5-year apprenticeships, which include both paid on-the-job training and related classroom technical instruction. Apprentices learn construction basics such as blueprint reading, math, building code requirements, and safety and first aid practices. Welding may be included as part of the training.
Although most construction workers enter apprenticeships directly after finishing high school, some start out as helpers before entering apprenticeships.
Apprenticeship programs are offered by unions and businesses. The basic qualifications for entering an apprenticeship program are being 18 years old and having a high school diploma or the equivalent. Some apprenticeship programs give veterans preference.
After completing an apprenticeship program, sheet metal workers are considered to be journey workers who are qualified to perform tasks on their own.
Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations
Although not required, sheet metal workers can earn certifications for several of the tasks that they perform. For example, some sheet metal workers can become certified in welding from the American Welding Society. In addition, the International Training Institute for the Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Industry offers certification in building information modeling (BIM), welding, testing and balancing, and other related activities. The Fabricators & Manufacturers Association, International, offers a certification in precision sheet metal work.
Computer skills. Sheet metal workers use computer-aided drafting and design (CADD) programs and building information modeling (BIM) systems as they design products and cut sheet metal.
Dexterity. Sheet metal workers need good hand–eye coordination and motor control to make precise cuts and bends in metal pieces.
Math skills. Sheet metal workers must calculate the proper sizes and angles of fabricated sheet metal, as it is important to ensure the alignment and fit of ductwork.
Mechanical skills. Sheet metal workers use saws, lasers, shears, and presses to do their job. As a result, they should have good mechanical skills in order to operate and maintain equipment.
Physical stamina. Sheet metal workers in factories may spend many hours standing at their workstation.
Physical strength. Sheet metal workers must be able to lift and move ductwork that is often heavy and cumbersome. Some jobs require workers to be able to lift 50 pounds.