We recently sat down with Matt Rajda, the training coordinator for the Iron Workers Local 25 training center as he explains his role, what ironworkers do, the different occupations in the trade as well as the working conditions and application process.
As a training coordinator, Matt oversees the apprenticeship program and the journeyman upgrading programs within their jurisdiction, which is the lower peninsula of Michigan. There are two training centers: the main location in Wixom, and another in Hudsonville. Training is also conducted at the operator’s training center in Howell, Michigan. Matt oversees the training at those three locations, with a staff of 5 full-time instructors, an administrative assistant, and himself. There are approximately 403 apprentices in the four-year program that is currently offered.
“Traditionally, what ironworkers do, most people imagine the picture from Rockefeller center, ‘Lunch on a skyscraper’. Traditionally, that’s what everyone thinks, and that is the bulk of our work, that’s about 75% — structural steel — low and high rise buildings, putting the steel skeleton of the buildings up. Everything from small like a mall to the Gordy Howe bridge that’s going up.”
Along with structural ironwork, there are a lot of different facets of the trade. “We branch out so much that most people don’t even realize there’s an ironworker doing it,” Matt explained. Typical working conditions vary from every facet you do in this trade. Everything starts with most projects on the reinforcing ironwork which is outside in all weather conditions. Each job varies on the working condition, depending on where the work is being done. Ironworkers could be found in steel mills, paper mills, any kind of industrial setting, whether it be maintenance or brand new construction.
“It is now a 4-year (apprenticeship) program that encompasses all of the facets of our trade. It makes that individual more marketable. No matter what’s going on, if they want to stay local, they can use any facet of the trade,” Matt explained.
Applications are accepted 48 weeks out of the year, right online. After filling out an application, the next step is calling to set up an appointment, to take a work-keys test. The test scores will be averaged out and sent to you as your number of waitlist entry. There is a minimum of 2,000 hours for the apprenticeship program. For more information, please visit http://www.ironworkers25.org/apprenticeship