Millwrights are professionals responsible for the installation and dismantling of industrial machinery. This field is recommended for individuals with a technical bent how enjoy physical work. Since there are a wide variety of machines that may need to be assembled onsite, a good general knowledge of engineering and industrial systems is advantageous. It is a field that takes place in a wide variety of industrial environments and requires both physical and mental fitness to perform. It is generally quite labor intensive form both a physical and intellectual standpoint. As industrial equipment becomes more and more sophisticated and automated, a general knowledge of digital and electrical engineering principles makes the job increasingly technical. This means that those with a more advanced technical, not merely mechanical, understanding will take the lead in terms of job prospects in the field.
According the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median hourly wage for millwrights in 2008 was 22.87. The median 50% earned between $17.85 and $30.53, and the top and bottom 10% earned $37.02 and $14.37 respectively. Needless to say, these are respectable wages. Though these are 2008 figures, generally they are fairly accurate. Current wages may even, in fact, be slightly higher. This all indicates a reasonable level of demand in the field.*
*According to the BLS, http://www.bls.gov/oco/
Job Description and Outlook
As noted above, millwrights install, assemble, and disassemble industrial machinery. They perform this work in factories, power plants, and at construction sites. They are the individuals responsible for seeing that installation of complex mechanical and electronic systems goes smoothly and the machinery functions properly. They must have an in depth knowledge of engineering and extensive reference material on the systems and equipment they are installing. They work in a variety of industrial settings and use equipment from the smallest scale such as micrometers, to medium scale tools such as drills, torque wrenches and other power tools, to large equipment such as cranes.
Millwrights also perform large scale maintenance and repair work on machines after they are installed. They may be called on the dismantle and modify a system or do overhauls that are not within the skill range of the day to day maintenance personnel at an industrial facility.
Finally, millwrights may be called upon to perform disassembly and dismantling of industrial systems that are no longer going to be used by a factory or plant. They must dismantle machinery in a timely fashion that allows for new installation to take place in a short time frame.
This job definitely has its occupational hazards as professionals work on high ladders, with large and heavy equipment, and sometimes for long hours. Coordination, knowledge of safety procedures, and general understanding of the best way to handle large equipment is required.
Mostly millwrights work by contract and may spend a period of from a few days to several weeks at a particular location working for a particular client. They may experience periods of unemployment between contracts.
According to the US Bureau of labor Statistics demand for professionals in this career line will most likely show little to no growth in the near future. They predict a 1% growth rate by the year 2018. This may not seem especially encouraging, but it is better than a decrease in demand. There should continue to be a wide variety of opportunities for qualified personnel as factories increase automated equipment in an attempt to reduce production costs and as the power industry continues to grow and expand.*
*According to the BLS, http://www.bls.gov/oco/
Training and Education Requirements
The main mode of training in this field is apprenticeship. Beginning millwrights apprentice with experienced professionals in the field, usually for a period of four years. These are usually structured programs that also involve classroom work at vocational or technical schools. Increasingly, more extensive theoretical technical education is also included as well as training in skills such as technical drawing and reading blueprints. These apprenticeship programs are usually given by state labor departments, local trade union chapters, or by industrial corporations that will be employing millwrights. The only prerequisite for entering these programs is a high school diploma or GED, though high school or college classes in mathematics, computer programming, or electronics is an asset to the job seeker in this field.
Usually specific certifications are offered by the individual apprenticeship/training programs in which a millwright apprentice in enrolled. As noted above, these apprenticeship programs may be offered by employers, state agencies, or the branch of a union in the local area where the student is situated.
The main professional associations that regulate the millwright field, oversee education, and so on, are labor unions. These are usually national labor organizations with local chapters that make sure job safety and wage requirements are respected by the big business concerns that hire millwrights. This is a long standing tradition in the industrial trades and continues in the present day.
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