Sheet Metal Workers - What They Do

Sheet metal workers fabricate, assemble, install and repair sheet metal products. They are employed by sheet metal fabrication shops, sheet metal products manufacturing companies, sheet metal work contractors and various industrial sectors.

Job duties

This group performs some or all of the following duties:

  • Read engineering and architectural drawings, sketches and work specifications to be performed, and lay out, measure and mark sheet metal according to drawings or templates
  • Develop patterns for sheet metal using computer-assisted design and drafting (CAD) software package
  • Operate light metalworking machines such as shears, brakes, punches, and drill presses, including computer numerical control (CNC) equipment to cut, bend, punch, drill, shape or straighten sheet metal
  • Operate computerized laser or plasma cutting equipment to cut sheet metal
  • Install and use rigging and hoisting equipment
  • Fit and join sheet metal parts using riveting, welding, soldering and similar equipment to fabricate products such as ventilation shafts, exhaust hoods, eavestroughs, partition frames, air and heat ducts, material handling systems, roof decking and sheet metal buildings
  • Install sheet metal products according to specifications and building codes
  • Grind and buff seams, joints and rough surfaces
  • Inspect product quality and installation to ensure conformance to specifications.
  • Sheet metal workers may specialize in on-site installation or shop manufacture of sheet metal products, or servicing and maintenance of installed equipment and systems.

Job titles

  • apprentice sheet metal worker
  • sheet metal mechanic
  • sheet metal fabricator
  • sheet metal worker
  • tinsmith
Employment Requirements

This is what you typically need for the job:

  • Completion of secondary school is usually required.
  • Completion of a three to five year apprenticeship program or A combination of over four years of work experience in the trade and some high school, college or industry courses in sheet metal working is usually required to be eligible for trade certification.
  • Trade certification is compulsory in Quebec, Ontario, Saskatchewan and Alberta, and available, but voluntary, in all other provinces and the territories.
  • Trade certification for precision sheet metal set-up operator is available, but voluntary in Qu├ębec.
  • Red Seal endorsement is also available to qualified sheet metal workers upon successful completion of the interprovincial Red Seal examination.

Essential Skills


  • Read instructions and warnings on equipment labels, e.g. read labels affixed to equipment to learn about the safe operation of saws, shears and metal brake presses. (1)
  • Read short text entries in forms and comments on drawings, e.g. read short text entries in change orders to learn about modifications to a project's design specifications. (1)
  • Read memos and bulletins, e.g. read memos to learn about changes to work processes. (2)
  • Read a variety of instructions and procedures, e.g. read sequenced instructions for the installation of sheet metal fixtures. (2)
  • Read safety related information, e.g. read safety rules governing the use of personal protective equipment, such as fall restraint systems. (3)
  • Read product brochures and articles in trade magazines, e.g. read articles in magazines, such as Canadian Metalworking, to learn about advancements in cutting tools and materials. (3)
  • Read equipment manuals, e.g. read equipment manuals to learn how to set-up and operate equipment, such as shears and brakes. (3)
  • Read regulations, Acts, codes and standards, e.g. read standards issued by the Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors' National Association to learn the guidelines governing the installation of round industrial ducts. (4)

Document use

  • Locate data on labels and signs, e.g. identify hazard symbols affixed to containers of solvents and caulking products. (1)
  • Enter data into a variety of tags, e.g. enter data, such as dates and times, on equipment lock-out tags. (1)
  • Complete a variety of forms, e.g. complete entry forms, such as work orders, by entering part numbers, dates, identification numbers, job codes, dimensions, quantities and unit prices. (2)
  • Locate data in lists and tables, e.g. locate part numbers, descriptions, dimensions, specifications, times, clearances and inventory levels in lists and specification tables. (2)
  • Interpret process schematics, e.g. study loop circuit diagrams to understand how heating systems work and to locate system components. (3)
  • Study technical drawings to locate data and identify the placements of parts, e.g. review scale drawings of complex components to identify fabrication sequences and locate dimensions and angles. (4)


  • Write short notes to co-workers and colleagues, e.g. write logbook entries to record tasks performed and equipment settings changed. (1)
  • Write text entries in forms and log books, e.g. describe worksite hazards in hazard assessment forms. (2)
  • May write short reports for installation projects and production runs, e.g. write short reports to inform contractors and customers about the progress being made and difficulties encountered on projects. (2)


  • Measure distances, temperatures and angles using basic measuring tools, such as tape measures, thermometers and protractors. (1)
  • Compare measurements of angles, airflows, dimensions, clearances, humidity and temperatures to specifications. (1)
  • May calculate expense claim amounts for travel and supplies, e.g. calculate reimbursement amounts for supplies purchased using cash. (2)
  • May create project timelines to record significant events, such as start and completion dates, for large installation projects. (2)
  • May manage small material and supply inventories, e.g. reduce inventory counts when repair parts, such as fans and materials, such as sheet metals are used for projects. (2)
  • Estimate cut lengths and seam allowances when exact measurements are not required. (2)
  • Estimate times required to complete projects by considering the scope of work and times taken to complete similar projects in the past. (2)
  • May calculate amounts for estimates and invoices. They multiply hours worked by labour rates and add amounts for parts, materials and supplies. They calculate applicable taxes and subtract pre-paid payments. (3)
  • Take precise measurements using specialized measuring tools, such as micrometers. (3)
  • Calculate capacities, air flows, temperature differentials and other factors important to the operation of heating and ventilation systems. (3)
  • Calculate quantities of materials needed for fabrication, construction and installation projects by analyzing surfaces into constituent geometric shapes and using formulae to calculate areas and wastage. (4)
  • Lay out materials for cutting, bending, folding and welding, e.g. use geometric construction methods to scribe flat metal pieces for cutting and bending into three-dimensional structures. (4)

Oral communication

  • Discuss sheet metal work products with suppliers, e.g. call suppliers to order additional fasteners and to request delivery information. (1)
  • Discuss specifications, timelines, procedures and other work-related matters with co-workers, general contractors and other tradespeople, e.g. talk to general contractors to learn about changes to project specifications. (2)
  • Participate in meetings, e.g. discuss safety issues and work procedures during crew meetings. (2)
  • May supervise and train apprentices and helpers, e.g. provide apprentices with detailed directions about how to set-up and operate equipment, such as brakes. (3)
  • May explain fabrication, construction and installation procedures to customers. (3)


  • Decide task sequences and priorities, e.g. decide which installations to complete first. (1)
  • Encounter delays due to equipment breakdowns. They inform supervisors and general contractors about equipment breakdowns and perform other work until repairs are completed. (2)
  • Are unable to complete installations because specifications are unavailable. They locate the required specifications by talking to suppliers, engineers, general contractors and supervisors. (2)
  • Encounter unsafe conditions. They speak with general contractors and supervisors about their concerns. They perform other work until the safety hazards have been rectified. (2)
  • Assign tasks to apprentices and helpers. They consider apprentices' skills and the safety hazards, timelines and complexity of job tasks. (2)
  • Evaluate the safety of workplaces and work procedures, e.g. evaluate the risks posed by machines, such as shears, and the operation of safety systems, such as guards and automatic switches. (2)
  • May evaluate the performance of apprentices. They consider the apprentice's ability to fabricate products, install sheet metal and locate information, such as specifications. (2)
  • Find information about products and materials by reviewing manufacturers' websites, catalogues and pricelists and by talking to suppliers, co-workers, other tradespeople and general contractors. (2)
  • Locate information on fabrication, construction and installation projects by reviewing codes and scale drawings, reading work orders and by speaking with co-workers, customers and other tradespeople. (2)
  • Face disruptions of work schedules, timelines and budgets when project specifications are changed after projects have already started. They meet supervisors, customers, general contractors and engineers to clarify the changes, review change notices and establish new timelines and budgets. (3)
  • Choose methods and materials for sheet metal fabrication and installation jobs. They select workplace processes that meet safety, quality and production requirements. They select the materials and components that meet specifications. (3)
  • Judge the performance of equipment and the quality of parts and installations. They inspect the straightness of folds and the accuracy of cuts, and judge the quality of installations by taking instrument readings and visually inspecting the fit and alignment of seals, seams and joints. (3)
  • Organize their daily activities to meet targets established by their supervisors. They may be required to adjust their work schedules to accommodate equipment failures, temperature extremes and material and supply shortages. The variety of work experience they encounter is dependent on the scope of the company they work for. They may be given their work orders for the day and can set them up according to efficient use of travel time or they may be given assignments with priorities already established. They may have to work on more than one project at a time and must reorder their schedules accordingly. They may have to integrate their work plans with others to meet deadlines, such as inspection dates, and meet the needs of their customers. They may also have to coordinate their work with other trades, especially on large work sites. (3)

Digital technology

  • Operate computer numerically-controlled equipment by programming specifications for cutting speeds and depths, cut lengths and bend angles. (1)
  • Use calculators and personal digital assistant (PDA) devices to complete numeracy-related tasks, such as calculating material requirements. (1)
  • Use tools, such as electronic plum bobs and laser levels, to take precise measurements of angels and distance. (1)
  • Use tools, such as digital combustion and gas analyzers, to measure the contractions of gases, such as carbon monoxide. (1)
  • Use tools, such as digital manometers, to measure air pressures. (1)
  • May use word processing software to write change notices, compose letters to customers, prepare job estimates and generate invoices. (2)
  • May use spreadsheet software to track inventory and tally costs for job estimates and invoices. (2)
  • May use bookkeeping, billing and accounting software to produce invoices and estimates and print reports such as income and expense statements. (2)
  • May use communication software to exchange email with customers and suppliers. (2)
  • May use the Internet to access training courses and seminars offered by training institutions, unions, suppliers, associations and employers. (2)
  • Use Internet browsers and search engines to access technical service bulletins, codes, specifications and troubleshooting guides. (2)
  • May access online articles posted by suppliers, manufacturers and associations to stay current about industry trends and practices. (2)
  • May use the Internet to access and share information on industry-related web forums and blogs. (2)
  • May use computer-assisted design (CAD) programs, such as AutoCAD, to create elevation, plan and sectional views of sheet metal fabrications. (3)

Other Essential Skills:

Working with Others

Sheet metal workers coordinate job tasks and share tools, workspace and equipment with small groups of co-workers and colleagues. Those employed by sheet metal fabrication shops may work alone on small sheet metal projects, share equipment and workspace with other machine operators and work as members of teams on larger projects. Sheet metal workers employed by sheet metal work contractors coordinate activities with co-workers and tradespeople, such as plumbers and electricians, to ensure the efficient use of workspaces, materials and time.

Continuous Learning

Sheet metal workers learn continuously to stay abreast of new products and changes in installation and production processes. They maintain current product knowledge by reading trade magazines, brochures and bulletins and by talking to suppliers. They learn about changes to building codes, safety standards and new installation and manufacturing techniques by reading building codes and regulations. They may take training provided by employers, unions, suppliers and organizations, such as the Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors' National Association.