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Career and Education Opportunities for Steel Workers in Chicago, Illinois

Steel worker career and educational opportunities abound in Chicago, Illinois. There are currently 3,100 working steel workers in Illinois; this should grow 5% to about 3,260 working steel workers in the state by 2016. This is not quite as good as the national trend for steel workers, which sees this job pool growing by about 12.4% over the next eight years. In general, steel workers raise, place, and unite iron or steel girders, columns, and other structural members to form completed structures or structural frameworks.

Steel workers earn about $35 per hour or $74,210 annually on average in Illinois and about $20 per hour or $43,010 yearly on average nationally. Incomes for steel workers are better than in the overall category of Metal Working and Welding in Illinois, and not quite as good as the overall Metal Working and Welding category nationally.

There are 180 schools of higher education in the Chicago area, including two within twenty-five miles of Chicago where you can get a degree to start your career as a steel worker. Steel workers usually hold a high school diploma or GED, so you can expect to spend only a short time training to become a steel worker if you already have a high school diploma.

CAREER DESCRIPTION: Steel Worker

Steel Worker video from the State of New Jersey Dept. of Labor and Workforce Development

In general, steel workers raise, place, and unite iron or steel girders, columns, and other structural members to form completed structures or structural frameworks. They also may erect metal storage tanks and assemble prefabricated metal buildings.

Steel workers connect columns and girders with bolts, following blueprints and instructions from supervisors. They also fasten structural-steel members to hoist cables, using chains, cables, or rope. Equally important, steel workers have to bolt aligned structural-steel members in position for permanent riveting or welding into position. They are often called upon to pull or pry structural-steel members into approximate positions for bolting into position. They are expected to hoist steel beams and columns into position, using cranes, or signal hoisting equipment operators to lift and position structural-steel members. Finally, steel workers force structural-steel members into final positions, using turnbuckles, crowbars, jacks, and hand tools.

Every day, steel workers are expected to be able to lift, push and move large and heavy objects. They need to control objects and devices with precise control. It is also important that they coordinate both hands in a single activity.

It is important for steel workers to ride on girders or other structural-steel members to place them, or use rope to guide them into position. They are often called upon to dismantle structures and equipment. They also erect metal and precast concrete components for structures such as buildings and highway guard rails. They are sometimes expected to drive drift pins through rivet holes so as to align rivet holes in structural-steel members with corresponding holes in previously placed members. Somewhat less frequently, steel workers are also expected to verify vertical and horizontal arrangement of structural-steel members, using plumb bobs and/or levels.

Steel workers sometimes are asked to position blocks under reinforcing bars used to reinforce floors. They also have to be able to insert sealing strips and valves, depending on types of structures being assembled and hold rivets while riveters use air-hammers to fashion heads on rivets. And finally, they sometimes have to hoist steel beams and columns into position, using cranes, or signal hoisting equipment operators to lift and position structural-steel members.

Like many other jobs, steel workers must be thorough and dependable and be reliable.

Similar jobs with educational opportunities in Chicago include:

  • Sheet Metal Worker. Fabricate, assemble, and repair sheet metal products and equipment, such as ducts, control boxes, and furnace casings. Work may involve any of the following: setting up and operating fabricating machines to cut, bend, and straighten sheet metal; shaping metal over anvils, blocks, or forms using hammer; operating soldering and welding equipment to join sheet metal parts; inspecting, assembling, and smoothing seams and joints of burred surfaces.

EDUCATIONAL OPPORTUNITIES: Steel Worker Training

Lincoln College of Technology - Melrose Park, IL

Lincoln College of Technology, 8317 W North Avenue, Melrose Park, IL 60160-1605. Lincoln College of Technology is a small college located in Melrose Park, Illinois. It is a private for-profit school with primarily 2-year programs. It has 803 students and an admission rate of 100%. Lincoln College of Technology has a one to two year and an associate's degree program in Construction Trades, Other Specialties which graduated 124 and twenty-one students respectively in 2008.

Ivy Tech Community College-Northwest - Gary, IN

Ivy Tech Community College-Northwest, 1440 E 35th Ave, Gary, IN 46409-1499. Ivy Tech Community College-Northwest is a medium sized college located in Gary, Indiana. It is a public school with primarily 2-year programs and has 5,701 students. Ivy Tech Community College-Northwest has a one to two year and an associate's degree program in Construction Trades, Other Specialties which graduated three and five students respectively in 2008.

LOCATION INFORMATION: Chicago, Illinois

Chicago, Illinois
Chicago, Illinois photo by Dschwen

Chicago is situated in Cook County, Illinois. It has a population of over 2,853,114, which has shrunk by 1.5% in the past ten years. The cost of living index in Chicago, 114, is well above the national average. New single-family homes in Chicago are valued at $200,500 on average, which is far less than the state average. In 2008, three hundred eighty-one new homes were built in Chicago, down from eight hundred seventy the previous year.

The three big industries for women in Chicago are health care, educational services, and professional, scientific, and technical services. For men, it is construction, professional, scientific, and technical services, and accommodation and food services. The average commute to work is about 35 minutes. More than 25.5% of Chicago residents have a bachelor's degree, which is lower than the state average. The percentage of residents with a graduate degree, 10.0%, is higher than the state average.

The unemployment rate in Chicago is 11.6%, which is greater than Illinois's average of 10.5%.

The percentage of Chicago residents that are affiliated with a religious congregation, 57.6%, is more than both the national and state average. Southlawn United Methodist Church, Southern Missionary Baptist Church and Lakeside Evangelical Church are all churches located in Chicago. The most common religious groups are the Catholic Church, the Muslim Estimate and the Lutheran Church.

Chicago is home to the Five Crossings and the Wrigley Field as well as Monticello Park and Wilson Playground. Shopping centers in the area include Lincoln Village Shopping Center, Market Place at Six Corners Shopping Center and Kimbark Plaza Shopping Center. Visitors to Chicago can choose from Extended Stay America, Embassy Suites Lakefront and Cottage Inn for temporary stays in the area.