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Construction Millwright Job Description, Career as a Construction Millwright, Salary, Employment

Definition and Nature of the Work, Education and Training Requirements, Getting the Job

Education and Training: High school plus training

Salary: Average—$21.24 per hour

Employment Outlook: Poor

Definition and Nature of the Work

Millwrights move and install heavy machinery. They work for industrial plants, construction companies, firms that make machinery, and companies that specialize in installing heavy equipment.

Millwrights must be skilled in many construction activities. Bricklaying, painting, plumbing, welding, and electrical work may all be part of a millwright's job. Millwrights use these and other skills to build concrete foundations for heavy equipment, assemble new machines, and replace worn parts. They must have a knowledge of building materials. They must know how to operate hoists, jacks, and other rigging devices.

In smaller construction plants millwrights also do much of the plumbing, electrical work, carpentry, and routine repair work. In larger plants mill-wrights often specialize in one area. One person may be an expert machine mover and installer, while another may be a maintenance specialist. Some millwrights work for firms that specialize in installing one type of machinery, such as paper mill equipment or automobile assembly line conveyors.

Education and Training Requirements

A high school diploma is recommended for this job. While in school you should take courses in mathematics, science, mechanical drawing, and electricity, as well as wood, metal, and machine shop. Because a millwright must often give and follow directions, any course that develops communication skills, such as English or speech, is also a good idea.

One of the best ways to become a millwright is through a formal union apprenticeship program. More than fifty percent of millwrights belong to unions. Contact the union to which millwrights in your area belong and ask about its apprenticeship program. The program usually involves four years of on-the-job training and classroom instruction. Shop instruction in electricity, welding, rough carpentry, handling structural steel, and servicing equipment is also included.

Millwrights move and install heavy machinery. They must be skilled in bricklaying, painting, plumbing, welding, and electrical work. (© Bryan F. Peterson/Corbis.)

Another way to become a millwright is through an informal trainee program. In this type of program a person starts as a helper under the supervision of a skilled millwright. As various jobs come up, the helper learns the skills required to complete each one. After several years of experience the helper can become a fully qualified millwright.

Getting the Job

You can enter the field by joining an apprenticeship or a trainee program. If you want to begin as an apprentice, you should contact the appropriate union. If you want to start as a trainee, you should check with firms in your area employing millwrights. Apply directly to manufacturing plants, companies that build heavy machinery, local construction companies that specialize in building plants, and industries that install machines. Also, check your state employment office and scan the newspaper classified ads.

Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook

Advancement in this field depends on skill and experience. The more skilled you become, the higher your earnings will be. Some millwrights become supervisors.

About sixty-nine thousand people are employed as millwrights. The demand for millwrights is expected to decline slightly through the year 2012. Employment in the construction industry is sensitive to changes in economic conditions, and the demand for jobs fluctuates with the level of building activity. Automation and technological advances will also contribute to the decline in employment opportunities for millwrights.

Working Conditions

Conditions vary with the job, but most millwrights work indoors. Millwrights must handle oil, grease, sharp pieces of metal, and heavy objects. Physically, a millwright should be strong and quick. The job often calls for a lot of lifting, climbing, and physical force. A millwright should also be good at problem solving.

A forty-hour workweek is normal. Sometimes millwrights may have to work longer to complete a job on time. Usually time and a half is paid for any overtime hours and double time is paid for work on Sundays and holidays. Employment is generally steady for those who work in factories, but millwrights who work for construction companies and contractors may experience periods of unemployment.

Where to Go for More Information

International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers
9000 Machinists Pl.
Upper Marlboro, MD 20772-2687
(301) 967-4500

Mechanical Contractors Association of America
1385 Piccard Dr.
Rockville, MD 20850
(301) 869-5800

United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America
101 Constitution Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20001
(202) 546-6206

Earnings and Benefits

Wages vary depending on the experience of the worker and the location of the job. The median wage for millwrights in 2004 was $21.24 per hour. In general, apprentices start at wages that are fifty percent of those of qualified workers. They receive periodic raises as they progress through the training period. Benefits such as life insurance, savings plans, health benefits, and paid vacations usually depend on the individual company or union.

Additional topics

Job Descriptions and Careers, Career and Job Opportunities, Career Search, and Career Choices and ProfilesConstruction & Skilled Trades