The minimum requirement for most sheet metal working jobs is a high school diploma or equivalent. High school students often begin relevant training in the metal shop, blueprint reading, and mechanical drafting or drawing classes. After high school, prospective metal workers can learn the trade through on-the-job experience or through an apprenticeship.
Learning on-the-job often takes longer than an apprenticeship, and at first involves many jobs unrelated to sheet metal working. Workers may clean up debris and perform general shop or construction maintenance for many months before moving up to basic metal-working tasks. Trainees in these positions often take technical school courses after work to improve their opportunity for progress.
Apprenticeship programs typically last five years, though students who display heightened competency often complete the program in four years or less. During the apprenticeship, students engage in both on-the-job training with a skilled metal worker as well as classroom instruction. They learn all technical aspects of the trade, including how to operate complicated computer equipment and what types of metal are best for a particular application. Apprenticeship programs are offered by local chapters of the Sheet Metal and Air-Conditioning Contractors National Association or the Sheet Metal Workers' International Association.