What is an Ironworker?

Have you seen workers walking around on the steel framework of large buildings under construction? Those daredevils are structural Iron Workers – also known as “cowboys of the skies.” Iron Working has many sectors. Each sector involves challenging and difficult work, often on tall structures at high elevations. Iron Workers must be willing to work as part of a team. They must be able to meet rigid standards and deadlines. They must have a good sense of balance and be alert to potential danger to themselves and others. The common misperception is that Iron Workers only erect buildings, bridges or are welders but the fact of the matter is Iron Working is a multi-faceted trade. Most Iron Workers do more than one type of ironwork and each has its own challenges and required skills.

What do Iron Workers do?

Structural Iron Workers   
Their job is to unload, erect, and connect fabricated iron members to form the skeleton of a structure. Structural Iron orkers work on the construction of industrial, commercial, and large residential buildings, as well as on towers, bridges, stadiums, roller coasters and prefabricated metal buildings.

Welding and Burning
Structural, reinforcing, ornamental, and rigging Iron Workers all perform welding to secure their work to the structure. Welding and burning equipment are considered “tools of the trade.” Almost every construction project on which an Iron Worker works requires these essential skills. In order to become proficient in these tasks, the Iron Worker apprentice and/or journeyman learns how to burn and weld at one of the 160 Iron Worker training centers located throughout North America. Upon completion of training, the Iron Worker student will have the opportunity to be tested to become a certified welder. This designation meets the American Welding Society’s welding codes normally specified by the job site engineer.

Ornamental Iron Working
Ornamental Iron Workers install metal windows into masonry or wooden openings of a building. They also erect the curtain wall and window wall systems that cover the steel or reinforced concrete structure of a building. Some refer to these systems as the “skin” of the building. Windows, curtain wall and window wall systems are usually fabricated out of extruded aluminum shapes and may have panels of glass, metal, masonry or composite materials consisting of different colors. As an example of this type of work, the ornamental Iron Workers in Chicago erected the curtain wall that covers the 110 story steel structure of the Sears Tower office building. In addition to working on the skin of a building, ornamental Iron Workers also install and erect metal stairways, cat walks, gratings, ladders, and doors of all types, railings, fencing, gates, metal screens, elevator fronts, platforms and entrance-ways. A variety of materials are used in fabricating this type of work, for example, aluminum, steel, bronze and composites. This type of work is fastened to the structure by bolting or welding. Ornamental Iron Workers are commonly referred to as “finishers” and are employed in construction of large commercial, industrial, and residential buildings.

Rigging and Machinery Moving
Rigging is an integral part of the Iron Working trade. Structural, reinforcing and ornamental Iron Workers all do this type of work. Any Iron Worker that does rigging must have knowledge of fiber line, wire rope, hooks, skids, rollers, proper hand signals, and hoisting equipment, as well as have comprehensive training on safety issues. Iron Worker riggers load, unload, move and set machinery, structural steel, curtain walls, and any other materials or work falling under the jurisdiction of the Iron Worker. This work is done using equipment like power hoists, cranes, derricks, forklifts and aerial lifts, or by hand, using a series of blocks and tackle.

Reinforcing and Post Tensioning Iron Working
Have you heard the term rebar? If you have, you may know that it is reinforcing Iron Workers who fabricate and place these steel bars in concrete forms to reinforce concrete structures. Concrete in which reinforcing steel rods (that’s rebar to you and me) have been embedded is widely used in building construction. Rebar is placed on suitable supports and is then tied together with tie wire. Reinforcing Iron Workers have to carry the heavy steel bars from one point to another quite frequently, so don’t think you can slack off in the workout department! As we move into the 21st Century, rebar is also fabricated out of composite material – not steel. But that doesn’t matter, Iron Workers still install it. Reinforcing Iron Workers also install Post Tensioning Tendons (cables). These cables are placed in concrete forms along with the reinforcing steel. After the concrete is poured and hardened, the Iron Workers stress the tendons using hydraulic jacks and pumps. This technology allows structures to span greater distances between supporting columns. Reinforcing Iron Workers are employed wherever reinforced concrete is used in the construction of such structures as buildings, highways, drainage channels, bridges, stadiums, and airports.

Interested in becoming an Iron Worker?  Take the first step by calling our Apprenticeship Office at: (407) 859-0321

Apprenticeship Instructors

Bobby Corley - Apprentice Coordinator/ Training Director /OSHA Authorized Instructor/CWI/Instructor

Richard Watford - CWI/Instructor

Bobby Corley / Richard Watford

  • Safety Courses

  • OSHA Trainer

  • Forklift / Aerial Work Platform

  • Scaffold E/D

  • Oxy. Fuel safety

Bobby Corley / Richard Watford

  • Blueprints / Architectural Ornamental Class 

  • Layout Instrument

Bobby Corley / Richard Watford

  • Crane & Rigging / Reinforced Concrete Classes

Bobby Corley / Richard Watford

  • Weld Shop Instructor’s

Bobby Corley / Richard Watford

  • American Welding Society - Certified Welding Inspectors

Joint Apprenticeship Training Committee  and  J.A.T.C. Committee Members


Ivey's Construction Inc.: Wade Ivey
Coastal Steel Erectors: Greg Holmes
Mette Construction:  Paul Mette

Chairman: Sam Songer, I.W.L.U. 808
Business Manager: Bobby Knost, I.W.L.U. 808
Recording Secretary: Brian George, I.W.L.U. 808

Watch the Video Below on "The Work We Do"