The key to the industrial revolution was the ability of men to work with metal. This a trade has been plied over many centuries largely by itinerant tinsmiths and in shops where coppersmithing and other metal manipulation took place.
Working with metal was considered something of a mystery and the metalsmith was held in high regard.
Metal was the magic material that made so many things possible: tools for farming, building and war-making were all crafted of metal.
While there were many kinds of smiths, each specializing in a certain type of metal, many of these trades were replaced by industrial manufacturing methods. Those specializing in copper and tin are often craftsmen now.
In construction and some manufacturing applications, those who work with sheet metal are still in demand as specialists who can fashion products from large sheets of metal.
Sheet metal workers are employed in the construction industry to build ducts for ventilation, air conditioning and home heating systems; to install stainless steel for hospitals and kitchen equipment; to create industrial exhaust systems; for roofing and flashings.
More recently, the wind energy sector has created a demand for sheet metal workers.
In the trade, you work with stainless steel, aluminum, copper, galvanized steel, and nickel alloy. You need to be able to read blueprints and operate computer aided design (CAD) software.
A sheet metal worker understands and practices the art of cutting and welding metals, how to develop patterns, operate shears, punhes, drill presses and an saws. A sheet metal worker must also know how to operate computerized lazer or plazma cutting equipment.
To enter this trade, you must have a precision-based personality, as close enough is not good enough. Sheet metal workers work to very precise tolerances.
To become an apprentice sheet metal workers you also need Grade 12 in Manitoba (10 to 12 in some provinces such as Ontario) and 9,000 hours of apprenticeship at 1,800 hour a year over five years. In Manitoba, you can begin your apprenticeship in high school when you reach age 16 or when you are in grade 12, followed by four years of apprenticeship. Earnings range from $16.78 an hour for first year apprentices to $28.52 an hour for fourth year apprentices.
Employment prospects are good as the baby boom generation begins to retire.