Sheet metal mechanics, also known as sheet metal workers, fabricate, install and maintain ductwork and other metal parts. They install air conditioning/heating system ductwork and outdoor signs, repair metal parts on vehicles and install metal roofs. Sheet metal mechanics also work in manufacturing plants to mass produce sheet metal products.
Many sheet metal mechanics begin to learn necessary skills in high school shop classes and by taking additional math, physics and geometry classes. Classes in mechanical drawing as well as computer classes are recommended. Sheet metal mechanics learn their trade through formal apprenticeships and on-the-job training programs. Many find work with construction contractors that are willing to provide training and work experience, with apprenticeships usually lasting four to five years depending on individual skills. Sheet metal mechanics may specialize in residential and commercial installation of air conditioning/heating systems and maintenance, sign fabrication, industrial welding or exterior or architectural metal installation. Many learn service and refrigeration as well as the testing and balancing of building systems.
One Piece at a Time
Sheet metal mechanics measure, cut, bend and form metal components to their precise shapes and fasten them into a finished product. They use computer graphics and designing equipment as well as computer-aided cutting tools and metal bending machines. Sheet metal mechanics calculate precision work using mathematics, physics and geometrical equations. They use tape measures, shears, saws, drills and punches to cut metal parts without mechanical aids. Sheet metal mechanics inspect and fabricate parts together using, nuts, bolts, rivets, screws, clips or by welding or soldering. Sheet metal mechanics transport, join and fasten parts to walls, floors, or ceilings, using metal hangers. Sheet metal mechanics install metal roofing a piece at a time, and then finish the roof by fastening machine-made moldings around corners, joints, windows and doors. Sheet metal mechanics use hammers, punches, drills and shears to make custom-fitted parts, either by altering shop made parts or creating custom-fit parts on site.
Sheet metal mechanics may advance their employment opportunities with certification in one or more of field of sheet metal work. With additional welding classes and experience, they can do jobs that are more specialized. In manufacturing positions, they may become supervisors or managers. Many will also become quality inspectors. Construction sheet metal mechanics may become supervisors or move into the building inspection field. Sheet metal mechanics often become contractors and open their own metal working shops.
The Future Looks Good
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment growth for sheet metal mechanics will be slightly faster than average, at 15 percent from 2012 to 2022. The average projected for all occupations is 11 percent. Workers with multiple specialty certifications who can program computerized equipment should have the best prospects.
The average annual salary for sheet metal workers was $47,440 in 2013, according to the BLS. Median salaries ranged from a low of $25,220 to a high of $76,530.
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