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Tomorrow's Trade: Boilermaker

Tomorrow's Trade: Boilermaker

Renovation tradesTomorrow's Trade: Boilermaker

Becoming a boilermaker means working for the aeronautical and aerospace industry, for petrochemical companies, within the nuclear and cryogenic fields, with renewable energy, and more. 

Boilermakers are part of each and every innovation, and industrial battle, and are at the heart of the greatest human achievements; they literally bring engineers' visions to reality.

Boilermaker Trade: Brief Description

The standard definition of a boilermaker is that of a steam generator, tank, and boiler maker of all kinds (portable boilers, steam tanks, float tanks, brewery tanks, etc.). The list is extensive and their expertise has led them to create a variety of parts. If the essence of their craft was to make boilers, today, it’s fair to say that their trade has evolved in some ways. 

A boilermaker is, specifically, a metal specialist. Their role is to shape a sheet of raw metal into an object. Whether it's a car piston, a nuclear reactor tank, a ship's hull, a wind turbine mast, a freight car, or a rocket launcher, boilermakers do it all. The tradesperson is given an industrial plan indicating the type of part they're tasked with making. This then allows them to work with metal sheets, profiles, or tubes, and shape a wide variety of parts.

Often compared to a welder or a metallurgist, boilermakers are part of a sector that includes boiler making, piping, and welding. They know how to work all metals, without exception (copper, zinc, brass, etc.). Thus, boilermakers become essential on every large construction worksite.

welding metal piece_Boilermaker: A Trade of Tomorrow

Source: Flickr

The boilermaker's work demands great precision. The safety and cost-effectiveness of entire industries depend on the quality of the parts they make. Therefore, boilermakers must work within a large number of standards:

  • Standards W471, W47.2, W59, etc., as per the welding standards association CSA (Canadian Standards Association);

  • Standards API 620, API 650, and API 653, as established by API (American Petroleum Institute);

  • The ASME standards (The American Society of Mechanical Engineers), for welding and pressure vessels.

Additionally, there are local regulations set out in national (National Building Code) and provincial (Construction Code) legislation, in instances where there are no municipal regulations to adhere to, particularly with respect to construction.

Boilermaker: Tools

Boilermakers use a variety of tools to perform their work, and they must also know how to maintain and repair them. These can be divided into five categories:

Manual tools

  • Metal scissors and chisels;

  • Bolt and tube cutters;

  • Hand saw and hacksaw;

  • Multipurpose knife;

  • Vises (sliding tail, bench, or tube);

  • Pliers (serrated end, a serrated edge, end-cutting, etc.);

  • etc.

Electric tools

  • Shears and nibblers;

  • Heat gun;

  • Saws (reciprocating blade, circular, and jig);

  • Grinders;

  • Drills;

  • Presses.

Assembly tools

  • Bars (lever, bending and retaining bars)

  • Hydraulic ram;

  • Wedges (steel, brass, and wood);

  • Hammers, sledgehammers, and mallets (spark-proof and rubber)

  • Punches and chisels.

Tightening tools

  • Open-end wrenches;

  • Adjustable wrenches;

  • Tube wrenches;

  • Box wrenches;

  • Hex keys;

  • Screwdrivers;

  • etc.

Welding tools

  • TIG torch and exchange stations;

  • Leather welding screen;

  • Fix and portable electric arc furnaces;

  • Electrode clamps;

  • Preheating and heat treatment equipment;

  • Temperature indicating crayons;

  • etc.

How to Become a Boilermaker

People tend to focus on the solid academic foundation that’s required to become a boilermaker, especially in terms of mathematics and logical thinking. Therefore, it's absolutely necessary for one to have mastered their high school curriculum to be able to adequately follow specialized DVS training. And, this program is only offered at the CF des Métiers de l'Acier de Montréal, which is in Anjou.

However, note that tuition costs are $31,250, in addition to material costs which add up to $950 and an extra $250 for the application process. Although these costs can be offset after 2 years of professional practice, you’ll still need to be willing to complete 1,290 hours of in-class lectures.

worker in boiler_Boilermaker: A Trade of Tomorrow

Source: Flickr

Boilermaker: Essential Skills

The boilermaker trade is rooted in manual know-how, which also requires considerable technical skills. Consequently, a large number of standards regulate this trade to ensure that boilermakers are able to, without a doubt, produce a certain quality of work, which happens to be very high.

Must-have knowledge to excel as a boilermaker

Reading blueprints

(assembly drawings, triangulation drawing technique, etc.)

  • Understanding graphic concepts
  • Understanding scales

Mathematics

  • Arithmetic
  • Imperial and metric system conversion
  • Square root
  • Rule of three

Geometry

  • Surface area calculations
  • Angle calculations
  • Tangents, sines, cosines formulas

Metallurgy

  • Metal properties
  • Dilation and retraction
  • Using the right tools with various metals

Scaffoldings

  • Mounting/Dismounting
  • Using aerial platforms
  • Using platforms

Safety

  • Wearing/using protective gear
  • Understanding the Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System 
  • Gas properties and hazards
  • Dangers of gas

Lifting techniques

  • Crane operator hand signal guide
  • Using and maintaining lifting equipment
  • Understanding load capacities

Welding

  • Electric arc and shield metal arc welding (SMAW)
  • Flux-cored arc welding (FCAW)
  • Gus tungsten arc welding (GTAW)
  • Electrogas arc welding (EGW)
  • Plasma cutting

Quality control

  • Waterproof tests
  • Checks to preserve the integrity of objects

On top of these essential technical skills, boilermakers should have motor skills such as dexterity and movement coordination, especially while welding.

Another important point is that boilermakers shouldn't suffer from vertigo or claustrophobia. In fact, a lot of work must be done both at great heights and in enclosed spaces.

Lastly, boilermakers have to be able to detect the presence of certain gases and abnormal sounds in the structure they're making and have good vision to properly see the components they're welding.

Boilermaker: Job Opportunities & Salary

As it's an essential trade, boilermakers have a lot of job opportunities; 88% of the trainees are employed immediately after completing their training.

The boilermaker trade is sectioned off into three sectors:

  • 94% industrial 

  • 4% institutional and commercial 

  • 2% civil engineering and roadwork

By now, given their skills, you've probably figured out that boilermakers can work just about anywhere, as much on-site as in workshops. In fact, 75% of boilermakers work outside of their area of residence, although in the province of Quebec alone, to name just a few places, boilermakers are indispensable:

  • In shipyards in Lévis or Montréal

  • At Gentilly nuclear-generating station

  • At the La Grande generating station

  • In one of the 115 automobile manufacturing plants in the province

  • At Bell Textron

  • At Bombardier Inc.

  • At Textron

  • At Pratt & Whitney Canada

boilermaker piping_Boilermaker: A Trade of Tomorrow

Source: Flickr

Being a boilermaker in Quebec means earning an hourly wage of $42.46, which is slightly less than the average Canadian wage for said trade, which is recorded at $44/hour. As such, the highest hourly salary made by boilermakers in Quebec can be $44.28/hour, while in Ontario and British Columbia, it can be as high as $50/hour.

What makes this trade even more appealing rests on the career development offered. It isn't uncommon for boilermakers to become forepersons, project managers, or even consultants with engineering firms. At such levels, the salary prospects are no longer the same.

Boilermakers are a part of a future-oriented trade that's geared toward the completion of large-scale projects. Not only are these individuals a core part of a variety of industries, but they're also capitalizing on the evolving nature of environmental standards. With each new piece of legislation, new systems need to be manufactured (filtration systems, gas treatment systems, hazardous product management systems, fine particulate matter systems, and so on). These changes positively impact the boilermaker's workload, which is constantly in demand.

Four things are safe to say about boilermakers:

  • They’ll find work, whether near their home or elsewhere;

  • They’ll be adequately compensated;

  • They’ll be eligible for future career advancement;

  • They’ll be able to switch trades.

Find a job in the renovation industry

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Last modified 2023-11-07

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