Renewable Energy Jobs

Sheet metal workers fabricate or install products that are made from thin metal sheets.

Sheet Metal Worker Jobs and Green Career Profile

Sheet metal workers work on both construction-related work and the mass production of sheet metal products in manufacturing. Sheet metal workers are often separated into four specialties: fabrication, installation, maintenance, and testing and balancing. Fabrication sheet metal workers, or precision sheet metal workers, make ducts, gutters, and other metal products. Installation sheet metal workers install heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) ducts. They also install other sheet metal products, such as metal roofs, siding, or gutters. They typically work on new construction and on renovation projects. Maintenance sheet metal workers repair and clean ventilation systems so the systems use less energy. Workers remove dust and moisture and fix leaks or breaks in the sheet metal that makes up the ductwork. Testing and balancing sheet metal specialists ensure that HVAC systems heat and cool rooms properly by making sure that air is transferred through sheet metal ducts efficiently.

Understanding Sheet Metal Worker Jobs

Before starting a project, those with sheet metal worker jobs study plans and specifications to determine the kind and quantity of materials they will need. They determine project requirements, including scope, assembly sequences, and required methods and materials, according to blueprints, drawings, and written or verbal instructions. They lay out, measure, and mark dimensions and reference lines on material, such as roofing panels, according to drawings or templates, using calculators, scribes, dividers, squares, and rulers. Sheet metal workers then convert blueprints into shop drawings to be followed in the construction or assembly of sheet metal products. They also select gauges or types of sheet metal or nonmetallic material, according to product specifications.

Learn About Sheet Metal Worker JobsFollowing detailed plans, those with sheet metal worker jobs use computer-controlled saws, lasers, shears, and presses to measure, cut, bend, and fasten pieces of sheet metal. They attach seams or joints together with welds, bolts, cement, rivets, solder, caulks, metal drive clips, or bonds to assemble components into products or to repair sheet metal items. They install assemblies, such as flashing, pipes, tubes, heating and air conditioning ducts, furnace casings, rain gutters, or downspouts in supportive frameworks. In shops without computerized equipment, sheet metal workers make the required calculations and use tapes and rulers to design the work. Then, they cut or stamp the parts with machine tools.

For construction projects, sheet metal workers usually need to transport prefabricated parts to construction sites for assembly and installation. They fabricate or alter parts at construction sites, using shears, hammers, punches, or drills. Sheet metal workers then maneuver completed units into position for installation, and anchor the units. They drill and punch holes in metal, for screws, bolts, and rivets. Sheet metal workers fasten roof panel edges and machine-made molding to structures, nailing or welding pieces into place. They also secure metal roof panels in place, and interlock and fasten grooved panel edges.

Sheet metal workers often need to use hand tools or portable power tools to trim, file, grind, deburr, buff, or smooth surfaces, seams, or joints of assembled parts. They use hacksaws or hand, rotary, or squaring shears to finish parts. Sheet metal workers also use hand tools to shape metal material over anvils, blocks, or other forms. They use measuring instruments such as calipers, scales, and micrometers to inspect individual parts, assemblies, and installations for conformance to specifications and building codes.

Senior or more experienced sheet metal workers can develop and lay out patterns that use materials most efficiently, using computerized metalworking equipment to experiment with different layouts. They also hire, train, or supervise new employees or apprentices. In manufacturing plants, sheet metal workers program and operate computerized metalworking equipment, for example, to fabricate sheet metal parts for aircraft or industrial equipment. Sheet metal workers in those jobs may be responsible for programming the computer control systems of the equipment they operate. In addition, they may make custom pieces and operate equipment that is manually controlled. Although some of the fabrication techniques used in large-scale manufacturing are similar to those used in smaller shops, the work may be highly automated and repetitive. Many fabrication shops have automated machinery, and sheet metal workers use computer-aided drafting and design (CADD) and building information modeling (BIM) systems to make products.

Sheet metal workers also work to support renewable energy projects. Some sheet metal workers may construct components for high-performance wind turbine systems. Others perform sheet metal work necessary for solar panel installations. Sheet metal workers can work on fabricating ducts for high efficiency HVAC systems to maximize efficiency of systems. They can also install green architectural sheet metal components, such as cool roofs or hot or cold walls. Sheet metal workers perform building commissioning activities by completing mechanical inspections of a building’s water, lighting, or HVAC systems. They also verify that HVAC systems are designed, installed, and calibrated in accordance with green certification standards, such as those of Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED).

Sheet Metal Workers Green Job Summary

  • Sheet metal workers fabricate, assemble, install, and repair sheet metal products and equipment, such as ducts used for heating and air conditioning, control boxes, drainpipes, and furnace casings.
  • Sheet metal workers’ job outlook is projected to growth between 15% and 21% from 2012 to 2022, faster than the average average for all green jobs.
  • Sheet metal workers’ jobs are expected to have 48,900 new jobs filled by 2022.

Work Environment for Sheet Metal Workers

Fabrication sheet metal workers usually work in small shops and manufacturing plants that are well ventilated. They often must lift heavy materials and stand for long periods operating tools and equipment. Construction sheet metal workers who install sheet metal at construction sites must bend, climb, and squat, sometimes in close quarters or in awkward positions. Sheet metal installers who work outdoors are exposed to all kinds of weather. While working around high-speed machines, they must follow safety standards such as wearing safety glasses and proper clothing. Most sheet metal workers are employed full time.

Sheet Metal Workers Education, Training and Licensing

To enter a green job as a sheet metal worker, a high school diploma is needed. Many sheet metal workers particularly those in construction, learn their trade through an apprenticeship. There are 3 recognized apprenticeable specialties associated with this job: Sheet-Metal Worker, Sheetmetal Worker and Tinsmith, and Sheet Metal Worker. Those who work in manufacturing more often learn on the job or at a technical college. To become a sheet metal worker, one should take high school classes in English, algebra, geometry, physics, mechanical drawing and blueprint reading, and general shop. Many technical colleges have programs that teach welding and metalworking. These programs help provide the basic knowledge that many sheet metal workers need to do their job. Some manufacturers have partnerships with local technical schools to develop training programs specific to their factories.

Employment Figures, Projections, Outlook and Earnings

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expects the employment for sheet metal workers to grow between 15% and 21% from 2012 to 2022, faster than the average for all green jobs. The BLS projected 48,900 sheet metal workers new openings between 2012 and 2022, and noted 142,000 jobs are currently filled. Titles include Sheet Metal Mechanic, Sheet Metal Worker, Journeyman Sheetmetal Worker, HVAC Sheet Metal Installer (Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning Sheet Metal Installer), Sheet Metal Apprentice, Field Installer, Sheet Metal Fabricator, Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning – Refrigeration Technician (HVAC-R Technician), HVAC Technician (Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning Technician), Sheet Metal Installer. The BLS further reports that the median annual wage for salaried Sheet metal workers was $43,890 in 2012 with median hourly wage of $21.1. Across the US job market, he lowest 10 percent earned less than $25,310, and the top 10 percent earned more than $74,740. Sheet metal workers can receive the best compensation in Nevada, where they earn compensation, on average, of about $64,140. People in this job function are compensated at the highest average salary in Arts, Entertainment, and Recreation, where they get average pay levels of $68,740.

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