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Nature of the Work
* Training lasts 4 yearsthrough apprenticeship programs that combine on-the-job training with classroom instruction, or through community college coupled with informal on-the-job training.
* While employment of millwrights is projected to decline slightly, skilled applicants should have good job opportunities.
* About 55 percent belong to labor unions, one of the highest rates of membership in the economy.
Millwrights install, repair, replace, and dismantle the machinery and heavy equipment used in almost every industry. These responsibilities require a wide range of skillsfrom blueprint reading and pouring concrete to diagnosing and solving mechanical problems.
The millwright's responsibilities begin when machinery arrives at the job site. New equipment must be unloaded, inspected, and then moved into position. To lift and move light machinery, millwrights use rigging and hoisting devices such as pulleys and cables. In other cases, they require the assistance of hydraulic lift-truck or crane operators to position the machinery. Because millwrights often decide which device to use for moving machinery, they must know the load-bearing properties of ropes, cables, hoists, and cranes.
Millwrights consult with production managers and others to determine the optimal placement of machines in the plant. In some instances, this placement may require a new foundation to be built. Millwrights either personally prepare the foundation or supervise its construction, so they must know how to read blueprints and work with building materials such as concrete, wood, and steel.
When assembling machinery, millwrights fit bearings, align gears and wheels, attach motors, and connect belts according to the manufacturer's blueprints and drawings. Precision leveling and alignment are important in the assembly process; millwrights must have good mathematical skills so they can measure angles, material thickness, and small distances with tools such as squares, calipers, and micrometers. When a high level of precision is required, devices such as lasers and ultrasonic measuring tools may be used. Millwrights also work with hand and power tools, cutting torches, welding machines, and soldering guns. Some of these workers use metalworking equipment such as lathes or grinders to modify parts to specifications.
Increasingly sophisticated automation means more complicated machines for millwrights to install and maintain. This machinery may require special care and knowledge, so millwrights often work closely with computer or electronic experts, electricians, engineers, and manufacturer's representatives to install it. (Additional information about commercial and industrial electronic equipment repairers, as well as electricians, appears elsewhere in the Handbook.)
In addition to installing and dismantling machinery, many millwrights repair and maintain equipment. This includes preventive maintenance, such as lubrication, and fixing or replacing worn parts. (For further information on machinery maintenance, see the statement on industrial machinery repairers elsewhere in the Handbook.)
Working conditions vary by industry. Millwrights employed in manufacturing often work in a typical shop setting and use protective equipment to avoid common hazards. For example, injuries from falling objects or machinery may be prevented by protective devices such as safety belts, protective glasses, and hard hats. Those in construction may work outdoors in uncomfortable weather conditions.
Millwrights may work independently or as part of a team. They must work quickly and precisely, because non-functioning machinery costs a company time and money. Many millwrights work overtime; nearly half report working more than 40 hours during a typical week.
Millwrights held about 78,000 jobs in 1996. Most worked in manufacturing, primarily in durable goods industries such as motor vehicles and equipment and basic steel products. Millwrights found in other sectors were employed primarily by construction firms and machining and equipment wholesalers; many of these workers are contractors. Although millwrights work in every State, employment is concentrated in heavily industrialized areas.
Millwrights normally train for 4 yearsthrough apprenticeship programs that combine on-the-job training with classroom instruction, or through community college coupled with informal on-the-job training. These programs include training in dismantling, moving, erecting, and repairing machinery. Trainees may also work with concrete and receive instruction in related skills such as carpentry, welding, and sheet-metal work. Classroom instruction is provided in mathematics, blueprint reading, hydraulics, electricity, and increasingly, computers or electronics.
Employers prefer applicants with a high school diploma or equivalency and some vocational training or experience. Courses in science, mathematics, mechanical drawing, and machine shop practice are useful. Millwrights are expected to keep their skills up-to-date, and may need additional training on technological advances such as laser shaft alignment and vibration analysis.
Because millwrights assemble and disassemble complicated machinery, mechanical aptitude is very important. Strength and agility also are necessary, because the work can require a considerable amount of lifting and climbing. Millwrights need good interpersonal and communication abilities in order to work as part of a team and give detailed instructions to others.
Advancement for millwrights usually takes the form of higher wages. Some advance to supervisor, while others may become self-employed contractors.
Employment of millwrights is projected to decline slightly through the year 2006; nevertheless, skilled applicants should have good job opportunities. Productivity increases resulting from new automation, limited growth in new industrial construction, and the growing utilization of lower-paid workers for installation and maintenance of machinery will contribute to a slight decline in employment. However, millwrights will still be needed to maintain and repair existing machinery, dismantle old machinery, and install new equipment. These highly skilled workers will encounter a number of job openings stemming from the need to replace experienced millwrights who transfer to other occupations or leave the labor force.
Millwrights are becoming more productive through use of technologies like hydraulic torque wrenches, ultrasonic measuring tools, and laser shaft alignment that allow fewer workers to perform more work. In addition, the demand for millwrights will be adversely affected as lower-paid workers, such as electronic technicians and industrial machinery mechanics, increasingly assume some installation and maintenance duties. And, industrial construction is expected to be insufficient to maintain current employment levels. Nevertheless, historical employment of millwrights has been fairly stable, and the growing use of machinery in the Nation's economy should ensure that the employment decline will be small.
Median weekly earnings of full-time millwrights were about $670 in 1996, compared to $490 for all workers. The middle 50 percent earned between $510 and $820; the lowest 10 percent earned less than $380, while the top 10 percent earned more than $1,030. Earnings vary by industry and geographic location. About 55 percent of millwrights belong to labor unions, one of the highest rates of membership in the economy.
To set up machinery for use in a plant, millwrights must know how to use hoisting devices and how to assemble, disassemble, and in some cases repair machinery. Other workers with similar job duties include industrial machinery repairers, aircraft mechanics and engine specialists, ironworkers, machine assemblers, and mobile heavy equipment, diesel, and farm equipment mechanics.
For further information on apprenticeship programs, write to the Apprenticeship Council of your State's labor department, local offices of your State employment service, or local firms that employ millwrights. In addition, you may contact:
The United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America, 101 Constitution Ave. NW., Washington DC 20001.
Associated General Contractors of America, 1957 E St. NW., Washington, DC 20006.
The National Tooling and Machining Association, 9300 Livingston Rd., Fort Washington, MD 20744.
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