Sheet Metal Workers


Education and Training Requirements

High School

Requirements vary slightly, but applicants for sheet metal training programs must be high school graduates. High school courses that provide a good background include shop classes, mechanical drawing, trigonometry, and geometry.

Postsecondary Training

The best way to learn the skills necessary for working in this field is to complete an apprenticeship. Apprenticeships generally consist of a planned series of on-the-job work experiences plus classroom instruction in related subjects. The on-the-job training portion of apprenticeships, which lasts four to five years, includes about 8,000 hours of work. The classroom instruction totals approximately 600 hours, spread over the years of the apprenticeship. The training covers all aspects of sheet metal fabrication and installation.

Apprentices get practical experience in layout work, cutting, shaping, and installing sheet metal. They also learn to work with materials that may be used instead of metal, such as fiberglass and plastics. Under the supervision of skilled workers, they begin with simple tasks and gradually work up to the most complex. In the classroom, they learn blueprint reading, drafting, mathematics, computer operations, job safety, welding, and the principles of heating, air-conditioning, and ventilating systems.

Apprenticeships may be run by joint committees representing locals of the Sheet Metal Workers' International Association, an important union in the field, and local chapters of the Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors' National Association. Other apprenticeships are run by local chapters of a contractor group, the Associated Builders and Contractors.

A few sheet metal workers learn informally on the job while they are employed as helpers to experienced workers. They gradually develop skills when opportunities arise for learning. Like apprentices, helpers start out with simple jobs and in time take on more complicated work. However, the training that helpers get may not be as balanced as that for apprentices, and it may take longer for them to learn all that they need to know. Helpers often take vocational school courses to supplement their work experience.

Other Education or Training

Even after they have become experienced and well qualified in their field, sheet metal workers may need to take further training to keep their skills up to date. Such training is often sponsored by unions or paid for by their employers. Additionally, the American Welding Society; Fabricators and Manufacturers Association, International; and the International Training Institute for the Sheet Metal and Air-Conditioning Industry provide continuing education opportunities to sheet metal workers. 

Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements

Certification or Licensing

Voluntary certification can help sheet metal workers keep up with developments in fabrication technology, such as computerized layout and laser-cutting machines, as well as building information modeling (B.I.M.) software. These certifications are provided by equipment manufacturers and other organizations. Also, certification in welding from the American Welding Society can give a sheet metal worker an advantage in the job market.

Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits

Previous experience as a helper or apprentice is required to become a sheet metal worker.

Sheet metal workers need to be in good physical condition, with good manual dexterity, eye-hand coordination, and the ability to visualize and understand shapes and forms.