Which engineering metal trade career is right for you

Which engineering (metal trade) career is right for you?

Working in a metal trade can be an exciting career that offers all sorts of rewards, including high earning potential and extraordinary job prospects at the moment.


Was your grandfather or dad a fitter and turner, a welder or a sheet metal worker and you want to follow in his footsteps?

Perhaps you’ve always loved hands-on activities and problem solving? A career in the metal trades could be right for you.

Here, Chisholm Engineering Manager Matthew Baker explains some of the career opportunities in the metal trades you could pursue through Chisholm.

What are the metal trades?

Metal trades covers a range of jobs, including:

  • Fitter and turner
  • Sheet metal worker
  • Boilermaker
  • Machinist
  • Welder
  • Fabricator
  • CNC operator or CNC setter

Why are metal trades important?

Matthew says skilled metal tradespeople are in high demand across the board. There are employment opportunities across industries, from mining and agriculture to the oil and gas industry and beyond.

“Modern manufacturing encompasses much more than one segment of the economy,” says Matthew.

“Businesses nowadays don’t just make one part for one industry and that’s it. They have much greater capability.”

Matthew says with defence and space contracts growing in Australia, new opportunities are opening up.

“It’s much more specialised now than it’s ever been. You’re not just a general hand on a line, you’re actually making the parts that go into the lines.”

Matthew says in the past there has been stigma around manufacturing and the metal trades being “dirty professions”, but things have changed.

“Modern manufacturing has all this high-end equipment in robotics and CNC, with machinery that’s worth millions to work with,” says Matthew.

“You could be working on a high-end piece for advanced rockets or jet fighters, for example.”

Getting started in engineering (metal trades)

A pre-apprenticeship is a great way to get started in an engineering (metal trade) career. It includes a combination of theory and practical application.

Chisholm’s Certificate II in Engineering Studies Pre-apprenticeship equips you with foundation skills that get you ready for a metal trade apprenticeship. It can be completed while you’re still at secondary school (VETDSS), or outside of school over six months.

Benefits of a pre-apprenticeship:

  • Get a taster of what it’s like to work in the sector
  • Gain foundation skills like how to use hand tools and undertake a basic metal trade engineering project
  • Grow your confidence for when you start a full apprenticeship
  • Make yourself more desirable to potential employers looking to take on apprentices.

Engineering (metal trades) streams explained

Fabrication trade

Interested in becoming a welder, maintenance welder or sheet metal tradesperson? Chisholm’s Certificate III in Engineering – Fabrication Trade could be right up your alley.

Job description and attributes needed

Welders use high heat to join materials, usually metals or thermoplastics. To become a welder, it’s helpful if you have good attention to detail. Steady hands and solid hand-eye coordination are also useful, as well as a level of physical strength and endurance.

Sheet metal workers make, install and repair items made from sheet metals. Again, attention to detail and good hand-eye coordination are important. You also need to be able to interpret technical drawings and blueprints accurately.

Mechanical trade

Chisholm’s Certificate III in Engineering – Mechanical Trade is perfect for those wanting to become a fitter and turner, toolmaker or machinist.

Job description and attributes needed

Fitters and turners are responsible for cutting, grinding, shaping, joining and assembling metal parts for machines and other equipment.

Practical coordination and a desire to work with your hands are a must. Same goes if you’re looking to become a toolmaker or machinist.

CNC Programming

Does the idea of using computers to machine different components excite you? Consider a career as a CNC programmer.

Chisholm offers a Certificate IV in Engineering CNC Programming – Apprenticeship for experienced tradespeople who already have a Certificate III in Engineering under their belt.

Job description and attributes needed

CNC stands for Computer Numerical Control. CNC programmers input instructions into a computer in order to make specific parts or machine tools.

CNC programmers read and interpret blueprints, models and drawings. Sound analytical and problem-solving skills come in handy in this trade. Communication skills are important too.

Tips for finding employment in the metal trades

Matthew says being proactive about finding employment will pay off. His tips are to:

  1. Decide which industry you’d like to work in, depending on your interests. For example, if motorsport is your passion, you could hone your job search to local motorsport teams that produce and manufacture their own parts. If you want to work with the military, consider finding companies that do government manufacturing contracts.
  2. Do your research around prospective employers to work out what they’re manufacturing.
  3. Go directly to employers, knock on their door and ask for a job. Most are hiring candidates straight off the street. They will line you up with a Registered Training Organisation (RTO) like Chisholm to complete your metal trade apprenticeship qualification.

Job prospects in the metal trades

Matthew says the demand for metal tradespeople is off the charts.

“For example, we know of significant entry-level roles in welding and fabrication within 25km of Chisholm Dandenong,” he says.

“Our qualified students from fabrication will finish their apprenticeship and can commence on approximately $100,000 a year.

“As they go on, they get different welding tickets through their career and the sky is the limit.

“We know of metal trades employees who are earning $200,000 to $250,000 a year, and even more in the mines.”

Ready to get started in engineering (metal trades)?

Chisholm is a leading provider of training in metal trades in Victoria. Every year, more than 500 apprentices are trained in fabrication and mechanical trades through Chisholm.

To find out more, head to Chisholm’s engineering courses page. Otherwise, get in touch for guidance about which engineering (metal trade) career could be right for you or your child.