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How to Get a Job as a Structural Iron and Steelworker

Tim Meadows works for the International Association of Bridge, Structural, Ornamental and Reinforcing Iron Workers Local 580 union. He was involved in cleanup after the World Trade Center attacks and helped build the One World Trade Center. Meadows says his union accepts about 300 applications a year for apprenticeships, and 50 are chosen through a lottery system. People interested in the construction trades generally submit applications to several different apprenticeships, whether for carpentry or steel work, and take whichever opportunity presents itself first, Meadows says. However, it's just as important to find a steady stream of work, and doing so involves some networking. "It's important to be a good union member and go to rallies and union meetings. If your face is shown, then people know you and you can get work. There are so few guys here that word spreads quickly on your capabilities, and as they say, 'It takes years to build a good reputation and one minute to ruin it,'" Meadows says.

Job Satisfaction

Upward Mobility fair Average
Stress Level poor High
Flexibility fair Average

What is the Job Like?

Meadows says he enjoys his job, which is an occupation he shares with many of his family members, and considers himself "blessed." The pay is decent, he says, but you must be dexterous and hardworking enough to justify it. "It's a small union and we try to keep all members employed at all times. We have good medical coverage, and we're paid $90 an hour to work on the job, so people definitely want their money's worth," Meadows says.

He also admits that although he's happy his 5-year-old son wants to work in the industry, he'd rather he didn't on account of the danger involved. "It's higher than other construction trades. One day I could be off-loading a 30,000-pound beam. You never know," he says.

Steelworkers must have specific physical abilities, decision-making skills and mechanical knowledge. They also need steadiness in their arms and hands, strength in their abdominal and lower-back muscles and finger dexterity, or the ability to grasp, manipulate or assemble small objects. Good vision is also important, as is the ability to judge which of several objects are closer to or farther from you.

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Last updated by Casey Quinlan.

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