By Tomas Hoppough
Ironworkers are in high demand across the country.
"Ironworkers are very important to the construction industry," said Dave Beard, general vice president of Ironworkers International. "We're one of the first crafts to arrive on the job, and we're one of the last ones to leave."
There are around 150 apprenticeship programs across the country, focusing on training future ironworkers and getting them certified to work.
"We hold about a 30% retention rate for our program, so it's not for everyone," said Joe Mulready of Ironworkers Local 24 in Colorado.
According to the Associated Builders and Contractors, the construction industry averaged 390,000 job openings per month in 2022.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports employment for ironworkers is projected to grow by 4% annually.
Without ironworkers, projects can be delayed. To help fix the problem, the industry has called on apprenticeship programs to recruit everyone from high school students to those seeking a career change. The programs offer people with education and certifications at no cost — while earning college credit.
"We supply all the training we supply the instructors. It's on-the-job training during the day. You come in at night and go to school," Beard said.
One of the hardest issues they face is convincing the public that trade schools and apprenticeships can lead to high-paying jobs. The average starting salary for an ironworker is around $57,000 a year.