Ironworker Q&A with Martinez Steel’s Bryan Berber
All month long, we’ve featured the perks of being a construction ironworker, where you can cut, weld, and fabricate the structures of amazing projects all across the Golden State! Our friend Bryan Berber from Martinez Steel is helping us show you even more reasons to explore a future in ironworking.
Check out our Q&A with Bryan below. When you’re ready to start your career as an ironworker or explore other trades, we’ve got the resources for you here!
Q: What made you want to become an ironworker?
A: It all started with family. I had an uncle who had been an ironworker for 15 years. I became interested after hearing him talk about his experiences and knew that ironworking was a unique job. I was told that not everyone is cut out for the job, and that intrigued me. I’ve always been a person who likes to try new things and challenge myself, so I decided to try it out for myself.
Q: Say I want to become an ironworker: What is the process like (i.e. apprenticeship, training, etc.)?
A: First, I would say that it is difficult. The training pushes you to your breaking point every week. You [may] have to juggle going to school and work at the same time, and you have to be prepared to do a ton of physical work. It’s both physically and mentally grueling, especially knowing that you have to be prepared and aware of your environment every day, every second, because it’s dangerous work.
I would suggest talking to an ironworker first, and they will either convince you to go for it or scare you away. I would then go to my local union. There, they will assess your background and experience and start you on an apprentice period one through eight based on your qualifications. After you pass the eighth apprentice period, you become a journeyman.
Q: We’re here to bust myths about our industry. What is the biggest misconception about ironworkers or construction workers in general?
A: The biggest myth of ironworking is that it’s easy, and it’s ‘just’ construction. It’s not. Everyone thinks anyone can do it, but it’s a different level of tough. Take it from my experience. I was in general construction (residential) before this, and the work is way different. It’s not easy at all. Everything is a challenge both mentally and physically. It’s easy to judge from the outside, but it’s a different story once you are out there working.
Q: If you could tell the next generation one thing about why they should join our industry, what would it be?
A: This job makes a difference. You make a difference, and you are the foundation of every building. You’re the start. It’s motivating to know that ironworkers build the skeleton, you know? Everything that went into the structure and you’ve built something from the bottom up. I’d encourage the next generation to just try it and try new things altogether. You never know what you have in yourself until you try. Just know that people will tell you that it’s hard, and it is, but try it and see for yourself, and you just might end up loving it.
Q: Can you share a favorite memory or story from working in construction?
A: My favorite memory is more of an experience than anything else. My favorite thing about the job is the people I work with. There are a lot of times when your crew has your life in their hands and trusting each other is what helps us form a tight bond. We all start as strangers and by the time a project is complete, the crew finishes as good friends, even more so like family. Everyone has their own lives outside of the job and getting to know the people I work with and forming bonds is my favorite [aspect].
Bryan Berber is a Local 155 Ironworker Apprentice with Martinez Steel. He was born in Chicago, IL, and moved around a bit between Arizona and California as a child. He currently resides in the small town of Kerman, CA outside of Fresno. He has worked in the construction industry since high school and decided earlier this year to make a change and see if he had what it takes to be an ironworker. In his current position at Martinez Steel, he’s part of the crew working on the Hanford Viaduct in Hanford, CA as part of the California High-Speed Rail Authority Program.