A complete guide to apprenticeships in blacksmithing

Updated 28 June 2023

Image description

A blacksmith works with a hammer and anvil next to a list with the title "Steps to become a blacksmith apprentice" and these steps:

• Complete your GCSEs
• Consider college courses
• Practise at home
• Create a portfolio
• Connect with local blacksmiths
• Demonstrate a willingness to learn

Undertaking an apprenticeship can be a great way to start a career in blacksmithing. Blacksmith apprenticeships can offer you an opportunity to gain in-depth knowledge, education and experience from trained experts. Knowing what to expect from apprenticeships in blacksmithing and what the requirements are can help you to decide whether this is an ideal career path for you. In this article, we discuss what these apprenticeships are, outline why these apprenticeships are useful, discuss what the requirements are and explain how to become a blacksmith apprentice.

What are apprenticeships in blacksmithing?

Apprenticeships in blacksmithing provide students with an educational experience, which involves working alongside one or more experienced professional blacksmiths. These professionals offer apprentices an opportunity to use blacksmithing tools and equipment. Additionally, these blacksmiths assess an apprentice's skills and offer advice and training to apprentices so they can develop their skills while working for them. There are various apprenticeship levels and it's helpful to know what each level equates to, as this can help you to decide what level of apprenticeship in blacksmithing you'd like to pursue. Below is a summary of each apprenticeship level:

  • Intermediate (level 2): This is the educational equivalent level of completing five GCSEs.

  • Advanced (level 3): This is the educational equivalent of completing two A-levels.

  • Higher (levels 4 and 5): These levels are the educational equivalent level of a foundation degree or the first year of an undergraduate degree. A level 5 apprenticeship equates to a full degree.

  • Degree (levels 6 and 7): These levels are the educational equivalent levels of a bachelor's or master's degree.

Related: Internships vs. apprenticeships: similarities and differences

What does a blacksmith apprentice do?

A blacksmith apprentice completes a variety of tasks to support a blacksmith in their duties, which develops their skills. These duties may vary, depending on the specific type of apprenticeship in blacksmithing. Below are some of a blacksmith apprentice's common duties:

  • cleaning equipment and tools at the end of the day

  • assisting blacksmiths by locating the correct tools

  • holding objects correctly and safely as they're worked on

  • taking key measurements of metals and other materials, following any blueprints provided

  • organising and storing blacksmith tools and equipment safely

  • recording an inventory of the blacksmith's tools and advising them when it's necessary to replace equipment

  • attending meetings and conferences that discuss blacksmithing and other crafts to meet and network with suppliers

  • working directly alongside blacksmiths and other trade professionals on construction sites

  • working with heated metal or steel under the supervision of an experienced blacksmith

  • completing independent work to gain experience and develop skills

  • completing skill assessments

Related: How to become a blacksmith (plus skills and duties)

What are the requirements for an apprenticeship?

You can qualify for an apprenticeship in blacksmithing in England, Wales or Scotland if:

  • You're at least 16 years old.

  • You live in England, Wales or Scotland.

  • You're not currently in full-time education.

You can qualify for an apprenticeship in blacksmithing in Northern Ireland if:

  • You've reached the minimum school leaving age.

  • You're employed or about to start employment in Northern Ireland.

  • You're working at least 21 hours a week on a permanent contract.

  • You meet every entry requirement of your chosen apprenticeship.

Related: What are apprenticeship benefits? (Plus eligibility)

Required skills for an apprenticeship in blacksmithing

Working as a blacksmith requires a degree of physical ability and a willingness to work in a physically demanding environment. Here are some of the other skills that are typically required to complete a blacksmithing apprenticeship:

  • Self-discipline: Even though this apprenticeship involves following an experienced blacksmith's guidance, a degree of self-discipline is still a requirement for a blacksmith apprentice to develop their craft. Having this skill can also help a blacksmith apprentice to identify the areas where they require improvement and allocate time to improve these skills.

  • Adaptability: This skill can allow a blacksmith apprentice to adjust to different projects and roles as their skills develop. Being adaptable is also useful when completing an apprenticeship in blacksmithing as you may accompany a blacksmith to work on a different job site.

  • Creativity: This is a key skill as when you complete your apprenticeship you can work on your own creations to sell. Having this skill can also influence which products you can craft from metal.

  • Hand-eye coordination: This is one of the most essential skills to have as the role requires applying a variety of heavy tools to shape metal. Having strong hand-eye coordination ensures that a blacksmith apprentice uses these tools both safely and accurately.

  • Attention to detail: Blacksmith apprentices use this skill to effectively work with metal. This skill allows them to follow complex blueprints to create intricate objects out of metal that follow a client's requirements.

Related: 15 hands-on jobs for you to explore (with average salaries)

Why are apprenticeships in blacksmithing useful?

Blacksmith apprentices gain access to experienced professionals within the blacksmithing industry. In addition, these apprenticeships can provide students with numerous opportunities to develop their skills and build connections within the industry. Here are just some of the benefits of gaining an apprenticeship in blacksmithing:

  • Explore your passion for blacksmithing: An apprenticeship in blacksmithing is a great opportunity for individuals to explore their passion and interest in blacksmithing. During this experience, you can find out what it's like to work as a blacksmith, discover who you're likely to work with in the future and gain experience with the tools you use throughout your blacksmithing career.

  • Develop industry connections and relationships: During a blacksmith apprenticeship, you can also develop working relationships with other industry professionals, in addition to your employer and those that you're working alongside. This can help you to gain references for job applications and can potentially allow you to discover future career opportunities too.

  • Improve future job prospects: Upon completing your apprenticeship in blacksmithing, you can use the skills you've learned and the qualifications you've gained to improve your chances of securing employment in this field.

  • Earn money while you learn: A blacksmith apprenticeship allows you to learn about the trade while earning a salary at the same time.

Related: 14 of the best networking strategies and where to use them

How to become a blacksmith apprentice

There are several ways to become a blacksmith apprentice. Below are some of the steps you can take to help you get an apprenticeship in blacksmithing:

1. Complete your GCSEs

While there are some apprenticeships that don't have any educational requirements, it's common for most apprenticeships to require at least five GCSEs with grades A to C (9 to 4 in England). At this point, it's a good idea to study GCSEs that relate to blacksmithing. For instance, you may decide to study design and technology and focus your coursework on working with metal.

Related: GCSE equivalent qualifications

2. Consider college courses

While college courses aren't a requirement, it can be beneficial to earn more qualifications before pursuing a blacksmithing apprenticeship. For instance, you may decide to attend a college and study for a vocational qualification in blacksmithing and metalworking. These courses tend to last between one and two years and can be a great way of developing your technical skills and demonstrating your commitment to this field to prospective employers.

Related: What is a welding certification? (Definition and benefits)

3. Practise at home

Most apprenticeships in blacksmithing can provide tools to their students, but being able to practise in your own time and develop your skills at home can be a great way to demonstrate your focus and drive to work in this profession. Buying your own tools so you can practise at home also benefits prospective employers as there's no need for them to organise as much equipment for you. Some of the tools that are useful to practise with include:

  • vice hammer

  • sledgehammer

  • forge

  • punch

  • anvil

  • chisel

  • cutters

  • tongs

  • drifts

  • face shield

  • protective gloves

Related: 18 skilled trade jobs that are in demand (with salaries)

4. Create a portfolio of your work

If you have access to your own tools, try to complete some metalworking projects on your own as this can be a great way to demonstrate your abilities to prospective employers. Even without any education or experience, it's possible to gain employment or access to an apprenticeship in blacksmithing if you can display that you have the required technical skills. Consider creating a video portfolio to send to prospective employers, as this can demonstrate your abilities in real time and can be more effective than a paper-based portfolio.

5. Connect with local blacksmiths and demonstrate your willingness to learn

Finally, try to connect with local blacksmiths, even if they haven't advertised any blacksmith apprenticeship vacancies. When reaching out to these individuals, try to demonstrate your willingness to learn and to receive guidance from an experienced blacksmith. Prospective employers value this as they typically look for apprentices that welcome constructive feedback and advice. You can demonstrate your willingness to learn during your initial contact with them, in your application or at your interview.

This article is based on information available at the time of writing, which may change at any time. Indeed does not guarantee that this information is always up-to-date. Please seek out a local resource for the latest on this topic.

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