Sheet Metal Training Programs and Requirements

Sheet metal workers spend several years acquiring sheet metal design, fabrication, installation and maintenance expertise. These professionals often train informally on the job; however, many may also choose to complete formal degree and apprenticeship programs in sheet metal technology.

Training Requirements and Recommendations

Metal roofs and duct systems are designed, fabricated, installed and maintained by sheet metal technology professionals. These individuals may train informally on the job and under the supervision of an experienced sheet metal technician, or they may complete formal degree and apprenticeship programs offered by trade, vocational or community colleges.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), most formal training programs for sheet metal workers last 4-5 years (www.bls.gov). These apprenticeship programs blend classroom instruction with on-the-job training. Upon completion, some training programs confer certificates, while others grant associate's degrees in sheet metal technology.

Formal Training

Both informal sheet metal training and formal certificate and associate's degree programs train individuals in various sheet metal applications. Students are exposed to industrial welding, sheet metal fabrication and HVAC design, installation and maintenance. They also study duct system testing and balancing principles, exterior sheet metal technology and signage design.

Informal On-The-Job Training

Many sheet metal workers find employment with construction companies that provide on-the-job training in sheet metal applications. Typically, these entry-level employees assist more experienced sheet metal technicians, also known as journeymen, and advance their skills over time. Employers may supplement this type of hands-on training with additional coursework or workshops offered through local community colleges or sheet metal professional associations.

Certificate Programs

Individuals in a certificate program in sheet metal technology often attend school part-time while working in the industry. Certificate programs last 4-5 years and offer courses in sheet metal design and fabrication, traditional and computer-aided drawing and sheet metal fitting techniques. Students also study drafting and blueprint principles, sheet metal welding applications, duct system design, and fabrication and architectural sheet metal applications. Certificate programs may be found at local trade schools or community colleges.

Associate's Degree Programs and Apprenticeships

Associate's degree programs often integrate classroom instruction with paid, on-the-job apprenticeships. These combined programs include coursework in sheet metal applications and generalized studies, such as English, algebra, science and psychology. Students may also take courses in management. Similar to sheet metal certificate programs, associate's degree programs and apprenticeships also take 4-5 years to complete, culminating with associate's degrees at graduation.

Graduates of sheet metal associate's degree programs may seek more advanced fabrication positions or management-level employment. Many of these programs adhere to local sheet metal regulations and guidelines set forth by the Sheet Metal Workers' International Association or the Sheet Metal and Air-Conditioning Contractors' National Association.

Job Experience

Many employers, particularly in construction, are willing to hire entry-level workers with limited sheet metal experience. However, according to the BLS, experience plays a significant role in gaining and advancing sheet metal careers. As a result, sheet metal workers with ample work experience in addition to formal training have the best employment prospects.

Whether individuals choose to seek employment first or attend formalized training programs prior to working in the industry, they will undergo intense, supervised training while learning about sheet metal and its technologies. This hands-on experience gradually builds sheet metal proficiency and expertise.

Licenses and Certifications

Sheet metal workers are not bound by state certification or licensure mandates. However, many choose voluntary certification in a particular sheet metal specialty, such as HVAC, industrial welding or architectural sheet metal installation. These certifications are offered through professional organizations, such as the International Training Institute for Sheet Metal and Air-Conditioning Industry. Sheet metal workers may also take additional certificate courses in welding, laser-cutting machines or building information modeling.

Additional Professional Development

Sheet metal workers may be required to complete additional safety coursework in sheet metal technology, welding and hazardous materials. Professional associations, such as the Sheet Metal Occupational Health Institute Trust, offer traditional and electronic courses to help sheet metal workers advance their knowledge and skills. Workers may also view industry-related podcasts on topics such as preventing lifting injuries, controlling bleeding for sheet metal cuts, protection measures for eyes and faces and preventing welding fires.

Individuals seeking bachelor's degree programs for sheet metal workers often complete mechanical engineering degree programs. These programs offer courses in heat and mass transfer, manufacturing processes, materials science and mechanical design. Graduates may find engineering positions within the automotive industry, where engineers design and fabricate industrial sheet metal for use in new cars, trucks and recreational vehicles.

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