Training Comes First For The Sheet Metal HVAC Technician

Opportunities for training to be an HVAC technician in the United States exist far and wide. Choosing a technical or trade school, therefore, is not too difficult, as long as an applicant has basic qualifications.

The budding technician will learn the fundamentals of at least five different trades, usually electrical work, plumbing, welding, pipefitting, and sheet metal. The programs vary in length, depending on the complexity of the particular credentials being sought. Let’s look at a typical sheet metal program, for example.

Sheetmetal Ductwork Fabrication School

Source: Sheetmetal Ductwork Fabrication School

Students who focus on becoming sheet metal workers undertake four- or five-year apprenticeships that require up to 2,000 hours of paid on-the-job training and 320 hours of related technical instruction. Enrolling in specific high school programs is a valuable starting point that could speed up the process of being accepted into an apprenticeship program. Ideal study subjects include algebra, geometry, and general vocational education courses including blueprint reading, mechanical drawing, and welding.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Outlook Handbook, important mental skills that a qualified sheet metal worker demonstrates should include:

  • Computer skills: Able to operate computer-aided drafting and design (CADD) programs and building information modeling (BIM) systems, as they are used to design products and cut sheet metal.
  • Math skills: Able to accurately calculate the sizes and angles of fabricated sheet metal to ensure proper alignment and fit of finished ductwork.
  • Mechanical skills: Knowing how to safely operate saws, lasers, shears, and presses.

Given the physically-demanding nature of sheet metal working, the following attributes are also considered necessary for potential employees:

  • Dexterity: Good hand-eye coordination and motor control to make precise cuts and bends in metal pieces and safely operate shop machinery.
  • Physical stamina: Ability to spend many hours standing at their workstation.
  • Physical strength: Able to lift and move ductwork that is often heavy and cumbersome. Some jobs will require workers to be able to lift 50 pounds.

Here are some useful links for building upon your own or your team’s education:

Trade Schools, Colleges & Universities

Occupational Outlook Handbook (Sheet Metal Workers)