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Steel erectors assemble scaffolds and structural components made from steel. They are part of a larger group of construction workers known as ironworkers, and they are critical members of teams on extremely large structures that require steel framing for safety and integrity. The job of steel erector requires a high degree of training and skill, and the pay might be very good in some regions, especially during construction booms. Job outlooks are variable, and some steel erectors go through slow periods during which they have difficulty finding work because of construction slumps.
In many regions, ironworking is a hereditary occupation, and it can be difficult for outsiders to break in, but in other regions, trainees who are not from an ironworking background are welcome. During their training, steel erectors often work on several positions in work crews. This helps them develop their skills in addition to providing a deeper understanding of what each member of the team does, which can be important on big projects.
Before construction starts, steel erectors might arrive on the site to set up scaffolds, supports and other materials that the crew will use to access different parts of the job site. They also are responsible for setting up steel structural members as the building progresses. The rate of building can be determined by the pace of the steel erectors, and sometimes the pressure to work rapidly can be substantial. Other teams follow behind them to install decking and other components, slowly creating a structure from the ground up.
As buildings grow, steel erectors need to add scaffolds and supports for workers while moving and removing other components. At the end of construction, they break down the various pieces of equipment that they brought on the site so that they can be transported to another site. Steel erectors might also be consulted in demolition and building collapse situations. Their knowledge of how steel buildings are put together can be useful when the buildings fall apart or are deliberately taken down.
To become a steel erector, it is necessary to complete an apprenticeship in the industry. This usually takes about four to five years. Under the supervision of an experienced ironworker, the apprentice has an opportunity to work on increasingly complex projects and tasks. He or she also receives training in worksite safety, the characteristics of steel and related topics that might be of interest or could be useful on the job. Physical fitness is essential, because this work is very physically demanding.