Millwrights work with machinery and heavy equipment in a number of different industries. They install, repair, and dismantle this machinery and equipment, using a wide variety of skills, from blueprint reading to mechanical diagnosis. When machinery arrives at a job site, millwrights unload, inspect, and move the machinery to the correct place. If they are moving heavy equipment, they often use hydraulic lift-trucks and cranes. After consulting with production managers, they decide on the optimal placement of machines in the plant. Sometimes they prepare the foundation for the equipment themselves. Then they begin assembling the equipment, aligning gears, attaching motors, and fitting bearings.
Millwrights use a variety of precision tools, such as micrometers, lasers, and ultrasonic measuring devices, as well as many hand tools, such as cutting torches, welding machines, and soldering guns. They also work alongside mechanics and maintenance workers to keep the machinery running smoothly. They perform preventative maintenance, lubricating and replacing parts. They also work with computer and electronics experts on the computer-controlled machine tools that fabricate parts for manufacturing equipment.
Those interested in a career as a millwright should have a mechanical aptitude and good manual dexterity. Because they sometimes lift loads and climb on equipment, they need to be agile and in good physical condition. They also need to have good communication skills because they often work as part of a team. They need to be able to communicate instructions to other members of the team.
In 2002, millwrights earned a median hourly wage of $20.19. Earnings ranged from the lowest 10%, who earned less than $12.39, to the highest 10%, who earned more than $29.49. The following shows the median hourly wages in the industries employing the highest numbers of millwrights:
- Motor vehicle parts manufacturing — $28.14
- Building equipment contractors — $19.33
- Nonresidential building construction — $18.98
Training and Education
The most common form of training for millwrights is through formal apprenticeship programs that last 4 years and include both classroom and on-the-job training. Some receive an education that combines on-the-job training with community college coursework. Trainees usually learn skills such as dismantling, moving, erecting, and repairing machinery, as well as related skills like carpentry, welding, and sheet-metal work. Classroom instruction usually includes mathematics, blueprint reading, hydraulics, electricity, computers, and electronics. Those who have taken courses in science, mathematics, mechanical drawing, computers, and machine shop will most likely have an advantage. Continual training is required even after apprenticeships end because the technology in this field changes rapidly. Visit this page about trade schools for more information on related careers.
In 2002, millwrights held about 69,000 jobs. Most were employed in motor vehicle manufacturing and steel mills.
Between 2002 and 2012, employment of millwrights is expected to increase more slowly than the average. Companies will continue to require the services of millwrights to remain competitive and update their equipment. Foreign competition will lower demand for these workers, as will the introduction of new technologies, which raise the productivity of millwrights. However, skilled applicants should not have trouble obtaining employment, and the best opportunities will be in new production technologies.