Ironworking is a hands-on trade that requires many hours of instruction and practice. Courses for ironworkers cover topics such as welding, construction and safety; students learn to create, assemble and erect steel beams, walls and other steel parts of bridges and buildings. These courses are most often offered as part of apprenticeship programs, which may be combined with college courses to earn an associate degree simultaneously.
Apprentices take technical ironworking classes in the evening or a few days a week while they are employed as registered ironworker apprentices during the day. An Associate of Applied Science in industrial technology takes 2-3 years to complete, apprenticeship programs take 3-4 years, and certificate programs may take 1-2 years.
Some common concepts taught in ironworking courses are:
- Basic safety guidelines
- Different kinds of ironworking
- Equipment management
- Hazardous material training
- History of the construction industry
Ironworker Courses and Classes
Introduction to Ironworking
This is the first course in an ironworker apprenticeship program. Students become familiar with terms used in ironworking and in the construction business. Math concepts used in ironworking are reviewed, including measurements and unit conversions. Details of the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) safety standards for construction sites may be taught in this course. Labor unions and jobs available to ironworkers are discussed.
Rigging is what ironworkers do to move heavy iron and steel loads to construction sites. In this course, students learn to assess the size and weight of the iron and steel they handle in order to determine the best means to transport it. Instructors use rope, wires and other rigging materials to demonstrate knots and slings to attach iron bars to pulleys and cranes for lifting. Students may use heavy equipment to raise and lower heavy iron and steel plates. Part of this course may take place in a lab for students to gain hands-on experience.
Reading blueprints is an important skill for any construction professional. This course is geared towards students who are constructing steel beams and walls for buildings. Students learn to interpret the blueprint to understand the specifications required for creating steel building parts and how and where to erect the building parts.
Welding Techniques for Construction
Ironworkers use welding equipment to cut metal sheets and to fuse pieces of metal together. This course covers instruction in several types of welding, including arc welding, oxyacetylene torches and gas tungsten arc welding. Welding processes are demonstrated before students practice cutting apart and fusing metal together.
Construction for Ironworkers
Ironworkers create steel beams and walls for use in erecting buildings. In this course, future ironworkers learn procedures for constructing steel curtain walls (non-load-bearing exterior walls) and beams. Advanced students may also learn to create ornamental doors, stairways and railings.
Steel bars, called rebar or tendons, are used to strengthen concrete. In this course apprentices learn to create and install steel reinforcements in concrete. Post-tensioning - the strengthening of steel-reinforced concrete walls or columns by pulling the steel tendons tightly - is taught, and students may qualify to become post-tension certified.