Millwrights install, dismantle, repair, reassemble, and move machinery in factories, power plants, and construction sites. Because they work in production facilities and construction sites, minor injuries such as cuts, bruises, and strains are common. They are typically employed on a contract basis and may spend only a few days or weeks at a single site. As a result, workers often have variable schedules and may experience downtime between jobs.
Millwrights typically do the following:
Millwrights are highly skilled workers. Putting together a machine can take a few days or several weeks. They need to have a good understanding of how the machine works so that they can repair it when it breaks down. Repair includes replacing, as needed, worn or defective parts of the machinery.
Millwrights also may be involved in taking apart existing machines, a common situation when a manufacturing plant needs to clear floor space for new machinery. Breaking down a machine is usually as complicated as putting it together. Each part must be carefully taken apart, categorized, and packaged for shipping.
Millwrights use a variety of handtools, such as hammers and levels, as well as equipment for welding, brazing, and cutting. They also use measuring tools, such as micrometers, levels, measuring tapes, lasers, and other precision-measuring devices. On large projects, they commonly use cranes and trucks.
When millwrights and managers determine the best place for a machine, millwrights bring the parts to the desired location using forklifts, hoists, winches, cranes, and other equipment.
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Most millwrights learn their trade through a three- or four-year apprenticeship. On the job, apprentices learn to set up, clean, lubricate, repair, and start machinery. During technical instruction, they are taught mathematics, how to read blueprints, welding, electronics, and pneumatics (using air pressure). Many also receive computer training. After completing an apprenticeship program, millwrights are considered fully qualified and can usually perform tasks with less guidance.
Apprenticeship programs are often sponsored by employers, local unions, contractor associations, and the state labor department. The basic qualifications for entering an apprenticeship program are as follows:
Millwrights typically receive on-the-job training lasting a few months to one year. During training, they perform routine tasks such as setting up, cleaning, lubricating, and starting machinery. This training may be offered by experienced workers, professional trainers, or representatives of equipment manufacturers.
A high school diploma is the typical education needed to become a millwright. However, several two-year associate’s degree programs in industrial maintenance also provide good preparation for prospective millwrights. Some employers offer onsite classroom training or send workers to local technical schools while they get on-the-job training. Classroom instruction focuses on subjects such as shop mathematics, how to read blueprints, welding, electronics, and computer training.
Most millwrights work in factories, power plants, or constructions sites. Many belong to a union. In a construction setting, workers must be careful of heavy equipment. They also may work in awkward positions, including on top of ladders, or in cramped conditions under large machinery, both of which add to their risk of injury. In production facilities, millwrights are subject to common shop injuries, such as cuts, bruises, and strains.
To avoid injuries, workers must follow safety precautions and use protective equipment, such as hardhats, safety glasses, steel-toed shoes, and earplugs.