Mahoning Valley Ironworkers Reach for New Heights

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – A social media post intrigued Jeremy Brush, seeing his cousin high atop the metal frame of a 54-story building in Las Vegas.

Brush’s relative was an ironworker. As the two relatives conversed, the 24-year-old Austintown native realized that not only his cousin was employed in this trade, so were some distant relatives.

“I really liked what they had to say,” he says.

Brush contacted Ironworkers Local 207 to start his career path. Its workforce and contractors serve Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties and parts of Portage, Geauga and serves Mercer, Lawrence, Venango and parts of Beaver and Butler counties.

Anthony M. Deley, business manager and financial secretary of Ironworkers Local 207, says if someone is interested in becoming an ironworker, he can find an application at IW207.com. Applications can be filled out and brought into the office along with a GED or high school diploma.

Probationary classes are offered in the spring and summer. The course includes a 10-hour Occupational Safety and Health Administration orientation class. Eventually the students are sent out on different jobs.

Testing and interviews follow before applicants can be accepted into the Local 207 school, which runs from November to May, and start their journeys on a four-year program. The local takes in 30 to 40 people and that number shrinks to 20 to 25 after interviews and through four years of training.

Those ages 20 to 23 usually are interested in this trade, Deley says, but the career possibilities also pique the interest of those 28 to 35.

He says there are four females among the women in the program.

“I could have a hundred more of them,” Deley says. “They are doing great out there. Great opportunity for them.

“Also with minorities, we are just not seeing the applications come in.”

Those interested should show up for jobs, he says, have an aggressive work ethic and be able to read a tape measure.

Local 207 loses candidates, Deley says,  because they do not present the communication, time management, teamwork or other soft skills needed to succeed as an ironworker. The local works with high schools and trade schools to remedy this issue.

“We just want somebody to work,” he says.

It typically takes an apprentice two years to be certified and receive about 33 college credits toward an associate degree. Local 207 is affiliated with Cuyahoga Community College.

“The pay is great if you’re looking for a challenge,” says Jeremy Brush.

The school at the union hall on Bev Road in Boardman teaches math and welding – providing certification in shielded and gas-metal-arc welding, rigging and oxygen acetylene burning. Reinforcing concrete and certification in pre-engineered buildings are some of the many classroom lessons apprentices also learn.

Local 207 and contractors pay for the schooling. It costs about $40,000 to $50,000 per individual during a four-year process of schoolwork and on-the-job training.

“This is zero debt and you’re working on the job,” Deley says.

Brush, who is a second-year apprentice, says he has been part of the Ultium Cells LLC project in Lords-town, working on substructure on bridges in Youngstown and Cleveland, along with the South Field Energy Facility in Wellsville. There, he was building an enclosure around a steam turbine generator where temperatures were 130 degrees inside the structure.

“Each day brings new challenges. And it’s fun,” Brush says. “It keeps my self-discipline in check. Some days I don’t want to get up at five in the morning and go to work for 10 hours. But it’s all worth it at the end of the week when I get my paycheck.”

After four years of training and schooling, ironworkers could make around $33 an hour – including health, pension and other benefits, Deley says. It increases each year from the starting wage of $20 an hour for a first-year apprentice.

Building and mechanical foundations, retaining walls, bridge piers and reinforcing structures are some of the jobs ironworks perform, along with welding for the Ohio Department of Transportation or Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, or even mill maintenance.

Where there is a shortage of workers, Deley says there are ironworkers called travelers who come from other locals around the country to help staff jobs.

Although this work here and elsewhere is temporary, the nearly 350 members of Local 207 are normally employed.

“I’ve been kept busy,” Brush says. “I haven’t been off for more than a week at a time. I think I’ve been laid off maybe two weeks the entire year.”

Full retirement is at age 56, Deley says. He is in his 32nd year, explaining ironworkers could move from foreman to general foreman to superintendent of different jobs, or focus strictly on safety or organizing business development.

He could have used his GI Bill benefits to help pay for a college education,  Brush says,but he wanted to get paid right away while getting pension benefits and full health care.

“They really take care of you,” he says. “The pay is great if you’re looking for a challenge.”

Pictured: Anthony M. Deley is business manager and financial secretary for Ironworkers Local 207. “I could have a hundred more of them,” he says of apprentices. 

Copyright 2021 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.