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Sheet Metal Worker

Source of Information: Next Step / DirectGov / Careers Advice Service

Sheet Metal Worker

The Work

Sheet metal workers make metal products for the engineering, construction and manufacturing industries, including pipes, cylinders, panels and containers.

As a sheet metal worker in light engineering, you might work with anything from thin metal sheeting to items like the car panels used in vehicle manufacturing.

Your work would involve:

  • marking out sections following engineering drawings and instructions
  • shaping and cutting out sections using hand tools and computerised machines, like presses and rollers
  • finishing items with tools like grinders and polishers to smooth down rough edges
  • assembling sections, using riveting, welding and bolting methods.

In heavy industry, where you might be known as a plater, you would use thicker metal plate sections to build up structures, for instance ship hulls or drilling rig platforms.

Hours and Environment

You would usually work 37 to 39 hours a week, which may include shift work.

Most of your time would be spent in a workshop or factory where conditions could be noisy, hot and dirty. You would wear protective clothing at all times and use safety equipment for tasks like welding.

Skills and Interests

  • practical skills, for using tools and equipment
  • good concentration levels
  • maths skills for making measurements
  • basic computer skills
  • an understanding of technical drawings
  • the ability to work without direct supervision and to work as part of a team
  • a good level of fitness and stamina
  • a good head for heights for some tasks.


You may be able to get into this career through an engineering construction Apprenticeship. The range of Apprenticeships available in your area will depend on the local jobs market and the types of skills employers need from their workers. For more information on Apprenticeships, visit

To get on to an apprenticeship, you would typically need GCSEs (A-C) in maths, English and a science, or equivalent qualifications such as the new 14-19 Diploma. Qualifications in engineering drawing, metalwork or other practical subjects may also be acceptable.

Alternatively, you could take a college course which would teach you some of the skills needed. Relevant courses include:

  • BTEC First Certificate in Engineering
  • BTEC National Certificate in Manufacturing Engineering (has options in Fabrication and Welding)
  • City & Guilds (2800) Certificate in Engineering levels 1 and 2 (has options in platework and welding)

Contact your local college for course information and entry requirements.

For more details about careers in sheet metal work, visit the Engineering Construction Industry Training Board (ECITB) website.


You would normally receive on-the-job training once you start work. You may be able to combine this with part-time study at a college or, with larger employers, at their company training centre.

You may be able to work towards NVQ levels 2 and 3 in Fabrication and Welding.

As an engineering construction apprentice, you would complete up to three years’ on-the-job training, working with experienced staff. You would work towards the Level 3 award in Engineering Construction. This qualification has several options depending on your area of work, for instance fabricating steel or welding plate.

The Level 3 award includes the CCNSG Safety Passport (Client/Contractor National Safety Group). The passport covers 10 units, including health and safety law, fire precautions, Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) principles and first aid. You can find information about the award plus training providers on the ECITB's CCNSG website.

If you are already working in this area but do not have formal qualifications, you could gain recognition of your skills and experience through the TECSkills initiative. ECITB has developed this route, so that sheet metal workers could gain a relevant NVQ. See the TECSkills website for more details.

If you want to specialise in welding, you could take training courses with the Welding Institute (TWI), such as qualifications in the different welding techniques.


You could work with companies like automotive, aerospace and ventilation equipment manufacturers. You may also find opportunities with companies that build large structures, such as oil rigs, pipelines and storage tanks.

With experience, you could be promoted to site supervisor or foreman/forewoman, which could then lead into middle management. You could also move up to engineering technician level with further training.

You may find the following useful for job vacancies and general reading (links open in a new window):

The Engineer Online
Engineering Jobs Network
Directgov (Jobseekers page)

We do not accept responsibility for the content of external sites.

Annual Income

  • Starting salaries can be between £14,000 and £17,000 a year.
  • Experienced workers can earn between £17,000 and £23,000.
  • Workers with supervisory responsibilities can earn over £25,000 a year.

Shift work and overtime may increase these rates.

Figures are intended as a guideline only.

Further information

If you would like to discuss your career options with a learning advisor at the Careers Advice Service advice line, call 0800 100 900 or use our online enquiry form.


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