The Background of Mechanics and Metalworking
The primary responsibility of a sheet metal worker, also known as a sheet metal mechanic, is to create and install building parts made from large sheets of metal. Sheet metal itself comes in a variety of sizes, also known as gauges. A 12 gauge sheet of metal, for example, has a thickness of roughly one inch. 14 gauge is roughly 8/10ths of an inch. Higher gauges correspond to a thinner sheet of metal. The sheets themselves can be made from a variety of materials, including but not limited to copper, aluminum, or steel.
Careers for Metalworkers or Mechanics
Sheet metal workers are in high demand in any construction-related field. Modern ships and airplanes, for example, are all comprised of large sheets of metal attached to a steel frame by a skilled worker. Others work in automation and put their skills to use on start-up sites or repairing equipment for companies that may make products such as cars, snowblowers, and tools. Although they have no involvement in building the car itself, they construct the equipment and machinery that does and often work alongside other tradesmen — like electricians and PLC Programmers — to accomplish this task. However, other workers may prefer performing the smaller but equally important tasks of installing metal structures such as gutters, roofs, and ducts on businesses and houses. Some artists work with metal to create outdoor statues and sculptures that can be displayed year round.
Regardless of their specialty, sheet metal workers should expect to have a working knowledge of welding equipment and solders. In order to work with welding equipment and soldering tools, they will also need to be able to wear personal protective equipment, including gloves, safety glasses, and specialized welding masks. They may be required to lift weights of 50-60 lbs unassisted and will need to know how to read schematics and blueprints provided to them by engineers in order to complete their tasks. Welders need to take special care to protect their eyes, as many workers in this field damage their eyesight from the sparks.
Other Facts About The Metalworking Industry
Most sheet metal workers learn their trade through an apprenticeship, meaning they gain work experience and are paid while learning. The employment rate for sheet metal workers is expected to remain stable for years to come, with an expected 11,500 job openings every year until 2032. Many of these jobs will require traveling and overnight stays at job sites for construction, and offer premium pay rates for sheet metal workers who are working away from home. Travel costs are typically also paid for by the employer.
People who enjoy working with their hands and who meet the minimum fitness requirements are good candidates to become sheet metal workers.
Job opportunities for sheet metal workers exist in every industry from medical to manufacturing, due to the wide range of uses the materials they work with have. Sheets of metal have been used in construction since ancient times, in fact, dating as far back as 5000 to 4000 BC! Fortunately, modern machinery has replaced the primitive stone tools used by sheet metal workers of the past.