Steamfitters are some of the most in-demand workers in the building trades today. However, to become a seasoned steamfitter and learn the necessary skills for the job, it takes years of classroom and on-the-job training. Those who complete the training can look forward to working in a variety of settings along with good pay and job security, as many steamfitters are reaching retirement age and need to be replaced. Job growth for steamfitters is projected to be 16% per year between 2008-2018, faster than average job growth across all occupations.
Basic Construction Skills
Steamfitters need to learn some very essential and important steamfitting skills to do their jobs well. Understanding their work and communicating project needs to others will rely on their ability to read blueprints, make sketches of pipe systems, take accurate measurements, and perform necessary calculations.
Mastering the Tools
Steamfitters need to use certain tools for welding, cutting pipe, fabricating pipe and equipment, installing pipes, threading joints, etc. These welding tools can include blow torches, power grinders, gas welding equipment, and screwdrivers. While learning these tools may not be difficult, they can be dangerous if mishandled, so learning their proper use is crucial.
While thriving in a steamfitting career does not necessarily require a lot of raw strength, it does require physical endurance and manual dexterity. A typical day includes lifting heavy pipes, working in cramped quarters and standing for long periods of time. Steamfitters work outdoors in various weather conditions, often in industrial parks. The job can come with its share of hazards, too, including being cut from using saws or grinders, falling off ladders, or getting burned from using blow torches or welding equipment. The work hours can be long and irregular, with many steamfitters working various shifts in addition to weekends and being on-call at times if emergencies arise.
Steamfitters must also have good vision to be able to read small or worn print, identify differently colored wires, and see well in dark or dim environments. Steamfitters will also need to develop a steady hand for doing delicate work.
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Communication and Professional Skills
Other necessary skills include good verbal and written communication skills with co-workers and customers, an ability to think critically, and a desire to do a job correctly the first time. Professional skills like these project competency and confidence to the people you work with.
While it takes time and vocational training to become a steamfitter, it is a career well-suited for those who like a combination of physical work and mental stimulation. For those who are at least 18 years old, this may be just the career that can provide satisfaction for years to come.