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Directly stemming from the name, millwrights were once people who built mills. Today, however, the job description has changed quite drastically. Millwright now denotes a jack-of-all-trades in the construction industry who installs, maintains and troubleshoots equipment and machinery in factories, production plants and recreational facilities. Factories and businesses depend on machines to perform various tasks and services.

Construction millwrights mostly engage in the initial installation of industrial plant machinery and equipment whereas industrial mechanics are more concerned with post-installation maintenance and repair of machinery and equipment. People sometimes use the names interchangeably, and in some cases the construction millwright does play a role in the repair work. Millwrights often work in close association with people in other trades, such as instrument mechanics, pipefitters and electricians. From escalators to robotic machines to auto production lines, the millwright had a hand in building it. In fact, wherever a machine exists, it is likely that a millwright was a part of it.

Millwrights are responsible for keeping the machines in a factory running smoothly and working efficiently. When a machine breaks down, the millwright, like a doctor, will quickly diagnose the problem and make a repair. This can exert a great deal of pressure on the millwright. If the breakdown has marred a production line, for example, they must fix the problem in a hurry, for the production of the company and people's jobs depend on it. Sometimes, millwrights will do routine checks and cleans of machine parts to avoid having to fix the machine after the fact.

Many millwrights like the constantly changing aspect of their profession; no two days are alike. For example, they might work at a nuclear power plant one week and then a food factory the next . . . it all depends on where someone is willing to contract them out or if a machine breaks. Further, since they are constantly moving around, they get to learn quite a bit about different industries.

Most millwrights recommend that you brush up on your math skills. They are constantly measuring angles, material thickness and distances with tools like squares and micrometers. They may also use lasers, ultrasonic measuring tools, cutting torches, soldering guns and welding machines. Besides this mathematical component, they also perform strenuous physical activity. There is a great deal of hoisting cables, rigging pulleys and even operating cranes. Millwrights often work in close association with people in other trades, such as instrument mechanics, pipefitters and electricians.
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  Average Earnings  
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  Interests and Skills  
Millwrights need the strength and stamina required to work with heavy equipment, and good coordination and manual dexterity. They need to know their way around a construction site and be able to read and visualize a layout by looking at plans and blueprints. Also, they must be okay with the idea of getting greasy and dirty on sites.

They are born troubleshooters when it comes to mechanical systems, and they are very personable. They can get along with everyone they work with and can also work alone. Being a millwright is most rewarding for those who enjoy variety, security and doing precision work with machinery and equipment.

  Typical Tasks  
  • Read diagrams and schematic drawings to determine work procedures
  • Install stationary industrial machinery and mechanical equipment according to layout plans using hand and power tools
  • Operate hoisting and lifting devices to position machinery and parts during the installation, set-up and repair of machinery
  • Inspect and examine machinery and equipment to detect and investigate irregularities and malfunctions
  • Adjust machinery and repair or replace defective parts
  • Operate machine tools such as lathes and grinders to fabricate parts required during overhaul, maintenance or set-up of machinery
  • Clean, lubricate and perform other routine maintenance work on machinery
  • Construct foundations for machinery or direct other workers to construct foundations
  • Assemble machinery and equipment prior to installation using hand and power tools and welding equipment
  • Working conditions for millwrights will vary from one job to another. On construction sites, they are exposed to a variety of weather conditions and hazards. Also, hours of work change depending on the site and shift work and longer hours may be required. The work environment may be noisy and there may be some risk of injury involved in working with heavy machinery, including bad backs and falls. Millwrights may also exposed to deadly gases, lead, silicone and asbestos, which in the long run can be very harmful to one's health.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Millwrights are employed by millwrighting contractors. They can be found in the following industries and services: construction, maintenance, machine shops, amusement parks, ski hills, paper mills, steel mills, power generation plants, automobile manufacturing plants, refineries, quarries and sales.

  Long Term Career Potential  
Millwrights are exposed to the duties involved in a variety of other trades, and therefore can be good candidates for promotion to supervisory and superintendent positions. Special consideration is given to millwrights interested in certification as machinists. Also, with experience, they could take upon an apprentice to teach the tools of the trade.

  Educational Paths  
Millwrights receive their training either through informal, on-the-job training or through an apprenticeship program. Trade certification can be obtained either through an apprenticeship program or after several years of work experience. While trade certification is not mandatory in all areas to become a millwright, it can be a requirement for many employers and can also help secure employment.

Apprenticeship programs involve a combination of on-the-job training and classroom instruction. A pre-apprenticeship course may also be available which takes about five to six months to complete at a community college and is designed to help you get connected with a good company to apprentice with. It is important to apprentice with a reputable company as that is your education. While some apprenticeship programs may not require a high school diploma, it is important to note that employers generally prefer to hire high school graduates.

Apprenticeships can vary, however a typical apprenticeship lasts four to five years. The apprenticeship is a paid position, however wages are about 50 percent of what an employer pays the journeyperson, with yearly increases. After successfully completing the apprenticeship requirements, their industry training and apprenticeship office awards the millwright a certificate of completion.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition,
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002,

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