Aboriginal Ironworkers
Aboriginal Ironworkers


As an ironworker, there is no limit to where your career can take you. Working in the industry, you can travel the globe and to the heights of the world’s tallest structures.


Career paths

A career in ironworking allows you to follow your drive, skills and interests up the ladder of success. Today’s apprentices can become the foremen, superintendents and contractors of tomorrow. Of course, advancement depends on the merits of the individual, but there really is no limit for those who are motivated and hard-working.

Here are some of the career path possibilities in the ironworking industry:

  • If you already have experience in construction, or certification in another trade, you can apply your skills to ironworking.
  • If you’re just starting out in the trade, you can make your way from an apprentice to a certified journeyperson.
  • As a journeyperson ironworker, you can apply for Red Seal Certification, a national certification standard which allows you to work in most provinces in Canada.
  • As a journeyperson ironworker, you can move into management positions like foreman, general foreman or site supervisor. Most construction and ironworker managers start out working in the trades and are promoted to supervisory roles by proving themselves to be strong leaders.
  • Another career possibility is to become an instructor and teach the trade to future generations of ironworkers. Most ironworking instructors are certified ironworkers, and take additional training to become an instructor.

To help you figure out if ironworking is the career for you, you can visit Guiding Circles, an online Aboriginal guide to finding career paths.

Read on for a description of positions in the ironworking industry:

An apprentice works toward becoming a certified ironworker through a combination of on-the-job experience and classroom studies. Apprentices perform various ironworking tasks and learn every aspect of the trade under the supervision of a certified ironworker.

A journeyperson is a certified ironworker. He or she may perform some or all of the following types of ironwork: structural, reinforcing and post-tensioning, ornamental, rigging and machinery moving, and welding and burning.

Ironworker welder
An ironworker welder is a journeyperson ironworker who has successfully completed the training, and passed the necessary theoretical and practical examinations, required by their province/territory to perform welding tasks.

Each ironworking crew has a foreman who schedules and directs daily tasks, fills in time sheets and makes sure the workers get paid. The foreman reports to the general foreman and ensures that the crew completes the project on schedule. Foremen are certified ironworkers and are generally promoted to their position by proving themselves to be exceptional leaders.

General foreman
A general foreman oversees the work of all site foremen, and reports directly to the site supervisor. The general foreman ensures that each foreman has the equipment and materials required for their crews to complete the job on schedule. Most general foremen have many years’ experience working as an ironworker foreman.

Site supervisor
The site supervisor oversees the entire construction project on behalf of the employer. Most site supervisors have a trades background and are familiar with every aspect of the construction job.

An estimator determines the overall cost of building ironwork projects. Estimators review engineered drawings and contract specifications to determine quantities and types of materials to be installed. He or she then obtains the cost of materials and estimates the total cost to install those materials.


Job demand

The tradition of ironworking is alive and well in Canada. With new developments like the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, the industrial and engineering booms in Manitoba and New Brunswick, and the continuing work on Alberta’s oil sands in Fort McMurray, ironworkers are in high demand.

With the upcoming retirement of thousands of skilled workers over the next ten years, the need for ironworkers across Canada will only increase.

Here are some of the upcoming Canadian construction projects that will provide jobs for thousands of ironworkers:

Oil sands projects (Alberta)
Companies such as Imperial Oil, Syncrude and Suncor are spending billions of dollars on upgrading existing facilities and building new ones in Alberta’s oil sands at Fort McMurray. The projects employ close to a thousand ironworkers and are expected to offer employment for several more years.

Peace River, Site C dam (Fort St. John, British Columbia)
Site C is a proposed $6 billion dam and 900 megawatt hydroelectric generating station on the Peace River, located approximately 7 kilometres southwest of Fort St. John. It would be capable of producing approximately 4,600 gigawatt-hours of electricity annually – about 8 percent of BC Hydro's current electricity needs.

Kitimat LNG Terminal (Kitimat, British Columbia)
This liquid natural gas (LNG) terminal located at Bish Cove, 18 kilometres south of Kitimat, will include facilities for marine offloading, LNG storage, natural gas liquids recovery, re-gasification and send-out facilities to deliver natural gas into the Pacific Northern Gas (PNG) pipeline. The project is estimated at $3 billion.

Port Mann Bridge/Highway 1 improvements (Langley to Vancouver, British Columbia)
Construction has commenced on a new 10-lane bridge across the Fraser River between Coquitlam and Surrey. The new span will have provision for a rapid bus service, future light rapid transit and a pedestrian/cyclist network. The project is estimated at $2.5 billion.

Skytrain Expansion, Expo Line (Surrey, British Columbia)
The Skytrain Expansion will double the capacity of the existing Expo Line, including upgraded stations, lengthened platforms, additional storage tracks, control system upgrades, vehicle maintenance and storage facilities, security enhancements, cycling accommodation, Smart Card Technology and related street-side improvements. The proposed project is estimated at $3 billion.

Coquitlam Light Rail Transit Line, Evergreen Line (Vancouver, British Columbia)
This proposed $1.4 billion expansion of Greater Vancouver's rapid transit network will service the northeast area, from Burnaby to Coquitlam. The line will feature up to eight stations over 11 kilometres linking Coquitlam, Port Moody and Lougheed city centres and connecting with buses, SkyTrain, West Coast Express and points beyond.

Hydro projects (Manitoba)
Several major hydro projects underway and proposed in Manitoba include the Wuskwatim Generating Station at Taskinigup Falls on the Burntwood River, the Keeyask hydro dam located in the Split Lake Resource Management Area, the Conawapa hydro dam on the Lower Nelson River and transmission lines.

Lower Churchill Project (Newfoundland and Labrador)
The Lower Churchill hydroelectric project will develop the remaining 35 percent of the Churchill River that has not been developed already by the Churchill Falls Generating Station. The Lower Churchill's two installations at Gull Island and Muskrat Falls will have a combined capacity of more than 3,000 megawatts. A transmission line will be constructed from Gull Island, in the central region of Labrador, down to Soldiers Pond on Newfoundland's Avalon Peninsula. The proposed 1,100 kilometre high voltage direct current (HVdc) link will be the first of its kind in Newfoundland and Labrador. As well, subsea transmission lines are proposed to transmit power between Newfoundland and Nova Scotia. The project is estimated at more than $6 billion.

Long-Term Energy Plan (Ontario)
The Government of Ontario is making significant utilities investments with its $87 billion Long-Term Energy Plan. The plan includes a $33 billion commitment to nuclear energy comprised of refurbishment projects for the existing systems and a proposal for two new units. Other initiatives include investment in transmission, wind, solar, hydro, biomass and gas projects.