Most floor, ceiling, and wall insulation workers learn their trade informally on the job. Most mechanical insulators complete a formal apprenticeship program.
Most mechanical insulation workers learn their trade through a 4-year apprenticeship. Some apprenticeships may last up to 5 years, depending on the program. For each year of the program, apprentices must have at least 1,700 to 2,000 hours of paid on-the-job training and a minimum of 144 hours of related technical instruction. The technical portion includes learning about insulation and installation techniques as well as basic mathematics, how to read and draw blueprints, general construction techniques, safety practices, and first aid.
Unions and individual businesses offer apprenticeship programs. Although most workers enter apprenticeships directly, some start out as helpers first. The basic qualifications to enter an apprenticeship program are as follows:
There are no formal education requirements for floor, ceiling, and wall insulation workers. Mechanical insulation workers should have a high school diploma. High school courses in English, math, woodworking, mechanical drawing, algebra, and general science are considered helpful for all insulation workers.
Insulation workers who remove and handle asbestos must be certified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Insulation contractor organizations offer voluntary certification to help workers prove their skills and knowledge of residential and industrial insulation.
The National Insulation Association also offers a certification for mechanical insulators in doing an energy appraisal to determine if and how insulation can benefit industrial customers.
Dexterity. Insulation workers must be able to work in confined spaces while maintaining coordination and control of tools and materials. Also, insulators often must reach above their heads to fit and fasten insulation into place.
Mechanical skills. Insulation workers use a variety of hand and power tools to install insulation. Those who apply foam insulation, for example, must be able to operate a compressor and sprayer to spread the foam onto walls or across attics.
Stamina. Because insulators spend most of the day standing, stretching, and bending, workers should be able to stay physically active without getting tired.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition