Needed: nerves of steel

Needed: nerves of steel

As less wood is used in buildings, metal working is on the rise

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Lee Ka-chun is taking a metal works course offered by the CIC.
Lee Ka-chun is taking a metal works course offered by the CIC.
Photo: Edmond So/SCMP
Lee Ka-chun is taking a metal works course offered by the Construction Industry Council (CIC).

Metal works is one of the newest branches in building, as metalware is replacing wood for environmental reasons. For that reason, the trade is on the rise.

Getting started:

The one-year course teaches students a wide range of skills such as welding works, and the building and installation of metalware such as gates, window frames and railings.

Students learn to identify and understand the properties and uses of different types of metals. Upon finishing the course, students sit a qualifications test, and, if they pass, will be ready to join the industry as an apprentice.

Moving up:

After working for five years, an apprentice can sit a certification test to become a qualified craftsman.

The duties of a metal craftsmen are diverse, and as a craftsman gains more experience, he usually chooses to specialise in a field; for example, welding on metal gates.

If they want to work as supervisors and foremen, night classes in project management are offered at the Institute of Vocational Education.

Where to apply:

Metal craftsmen are employed by contractors. As well as working on new building projects, they also work on renovation projects.

Since metal work is such a varied trade, job openings are rather specific, so you won't find recruitment adverts looking for metal craftsmen; rather, the advert will be for a welder or a metal gate craftsman.

Rewards and benefits:

Apprentices are paid about HK$450-600 a day, and workers with trade certification can earn about HK$1,500 a day.

A day in the life:

Work usually starts at 9am and ends at 6pm.

At building sites, craftsmen have to weld on the spot. A steady pair of hands is essential in metal works, and years of practice are needed. Work conditions can be tough, as workers need to deal with the heat from welding and are often covered in rust and dirt.

Metal craftsmen can also work overnight on projects such as removing a metal bridge or repairing railway tracks.

Jargon

Acetylene: A gas used for welding and cutting metal. It can produce a high-temperature flame

Stainless steel: A kind of high-carbon steel commonly used in buildings and bridges

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