How to become a steel fabricator: Tom's story

Meet Tom, 17, from Newcastle. He works as an apprentice steel fabricator, building metal structures for A&P, a fabrication and ship repair company. Part of our Bitesize world of work series.

Thomas at the shipyard.
"Definitely do an apprenticeship. It’s the best way to start off your life."

How would you describe your job?

A steel fabricator builds metal structures by cutting, bending, and then putting them together.

Do you use any soft skills in your job?

Normally when I come in, I find out what my job is. I usually get a metal grinder, which is used to finish off rough edges. If it’s cold, I need a torch to heat the metal up. Then I grind the metal to make it look good. I also measure when I’m fitting bits of metal plate.

What skills do you use?

I have to be very precise with what I do, because the measurement must be exact. Also, team work is important, because we normally work in pairs. Good communication is needed as well, because I’m working with people that could be from different places. I also have to manage my time and listen to people as well.

What was your educational career path?

I did 11 GCSEs, so all the mandatory ones. I also had to pick a language, Resistant Materials and IT. I stood out at Resistant Materials, so that’s why I went on to do a hands-on job. After school I applied through Tyne North Training to do an apprenticeship at A&P.

What choices did you make to be where you are now?

There were a lot of times when I could’ve gone out with friends, but I stayed home and revised. That’s how I’ve got the job now. I’d like to go on to do health and safety. I am trying to do a first aid course as well.

Tom at work holding his helmet.
Tom needs to wear health and safety equipment in his job as a steel fabricator.

Top tips

  • Definitely do an apprenticeship. It’s the best way to start off your life. You can follow your skill, learn on the job, and there’s also the bonus of getting a bit of money
  • Also if you don‘t do well in your exams, don’t worry about it – just keep trying and pushing.

What to expect if you want to be a steel erector

A steel erector assembles the metal framework of new buildings, and structures like bridges and tunnels.

  • Steel erector salary: £14,000 to £35,000 per year
  • Steel erector working hours: 47 to 49 hours per week
  • Typical entry requirements: You can get this job through a college course, an apprenticeship, or applying directly. For example, you could take a Construction or Engineering qualification at college. This could help you to find a trainee job with a company when you finish. Relevant courses include a Level 1 Certificate in Construction Skills or a Level 2 Award in Skills for Engineering. You'll usually need two or fewer GCSEs (or equivalent) at grades 3 to 1 (D to G) for a Level 1 course or two or more GCSEs (or equivalent) at grades 9 to 3 (A to D) for a Level 2 course. If following the apprenticeship route, you could get into this job through a structural steelwork erector intermediate apprenticeship or an engineering construction erector-rigger advanced apprenticeship. You'll usually need some GCSEs (or equivalent), usually including English and Maths, for an intermediate apprenticeship or five GCSEs (or equivalent) at grades 9 to 4 (A to C), including English and Maths, for an advanced apprenticeship. Alternatively, you can apply directly for jobs if you have relevant experience and qualifications in Construction or Engineering.

This information is a guide (sources: LMI for All, National Careers Service)

For careers advice in all parts of the UK visit: England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales

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