Mohawk Ironworkers: Training for Steel

How does someone become an ironworker? It is not like it was decades ago; nowadays you need considerable formal training.

Episode 4 of Mohawk Ironworkers gives us the inside scoop on how to become an ironworker. Elder and retired ironworker Paul Deer—and my personal favourite in this series—shares how things were done in the past. There was nowhere to go to learn, so the skills were shared through family. Fathers taught sons and uncles taught nephews … it was in the blood. Today, you need 1,000 hours of training along with thousands of hours more as an apprentice before you can become a certified Journeyman Ironworker.

We visit a couple of schools that provide this training in Quebec. One such program is offered jointly by Kahnawa:ke and the Local 711 Ironworkers Union. The nine-month in-class program covers the schooling and gives students an opportunity to learn their craft safely in a controlled environment. Upon completion, candidates must find their own apprenticeship positions in order to gain enough hours to finally be tested and certified.

Another program is offered in Akwesasne, offering both apprentice and probationary training for ironworkers. This allows students to receive supervised on the job training in preparation for unionization.

Some of the students are showcased, with many of them coming from long lines of ironworkers. I found it interesting that physical fitness was a part of the training program. It makes absolute sense that you be physically able to manoeuvre at the heights that these men and women do but I was surprised this was a part of the actual training.

Mohawk Ironworkers airs Tuesdays at 7 p.m. ET on APTN.