HR Management & Compliance

Training for Ironworkers Replicates On-the-Job Challenges

“Several times a year we meet with the contractors to get feedback about our ironworkers in the field,” says Randy Palumbo, apprenticeship and training coordinator for Iron Workers Local 48 in Oklahoma City ( “They tell us what they would like taught more in our classes, or taught less, and we build our programs accordingly.”

Recently, the Iron Workers Union ( teamed with the Ironworker Management Progressive Action Cooperative Trust (IMPACT) ( to release a series of new architectural and ornamental training modules designed to replicate “real-world” assembly and installation challenges that ironworkers face on jobsites.

“Architectural and structural training programs help ironworkers learn to erect the complex steel structures that shape large-scale industrial, commercial, and residential buildings and structures, and install precast columns and panels,” the organizations explain. “Ornamental work entails installation of curtain wall and window wall systems that sheath buildings, exteriors of high-rise structures, interior finished elements, and exterior and interior surface systems.”

Each 9’-by-9’ training module arrived in a wooden crate. During training sessions, learners unpack five window frames, a door frame, and a parts list and use the accompanying blueprint to erect the windows and door frame inside a steel structure.

“Our new mockup materials provide resources to make sure our ironworkers are the safest and most effective ironworkers out there,” said Eric Dean, general secretary of the Iron Workers Union. “These hands-on models help illustrate challenges and nuances of architectural and ornamental ironworking that are often difficult to convey on paper.”

Dean is pleased that the union is getting such a positive response to its “game-changing style of ironworker education and training.”

Greg Schulze, apprenticeship and training coordinator for the Iron Workers Union in Texas, says training on the new modules prepares ironworkers for real jobsites. “The classrooms are a nonstressful environment where the students can learn the correct way to do the work and build confidence in their abilities,” Schulze said. “Having the ironworkers properly trained makes them more efficient and cost effective for the contractor. I hear from the contractors that the training is working because of all the qualified help they’re getting in the field.”

“Anyone familiar with this business knows that the avenue to success is to employ union ironworkers,” says James Jutson, field operations manager for Permasteelisa North America

(, a contractor that partnered solely with union ironworkers on one of their largest jobs to-date, the 50-story Devon Energy Corporation building currently under construction in Oklahoma. 

Union ironworkers “are qualified to start work the moment they enter the site. They provide a trained workforce schooled in the techniques of rigging, welding, and safety,” he adds.

Investments in training programs made by the Iron Workers Union, signatory contractors, and IMPACT result in reduced costs and high-quality construction for contractors who employ union ironworkers, says Palumbo. Signatory contractors are employers in the construction industry that hire union ironworkers and partner with IMPACT and the Iron Workers Union.

The union strives to keep its members updated on the latest techniques and recognizes the importance of regularly fine-tuning instructors’ skills. In mid-July each year, the union conducts a week-long instructor training program in Ann Arbor, Michigan, to provide instructors with the latest training and installation techniques.

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