What Does a Millwright Apprentice Do?

Dan Cavallari

A millwright is a person who constructs machinery for a variety of purposes, and a millwright apprentice is someone who studies the trade under an experienced millwright. This trade is a difficult one, as the ideal candidate will need to be able to work with a variety of materials including wood, metal, and even plastics in some cases. He or she must also be able to read blueprints, do basic math, and troubleshoot the machines once they are built. The millwright apprentice will work on machines under the tutelage of an experienced millwright for a set period of time.

A millwright apprentice gains experience constructing heaving machinery.
A millwright apprentice gains experience constructing heaving machinery.

The length of the apprenticeship can vary, and in many cases, the local millwright union will dictate the duration and activities. The millwright apprentice will very often need to apply for the apprenticeship with the union office, and competition for the position is often fierce. Once accepted, the millwright apprentice will be assigned to an experienced millwright who can teach him or her the basics right away. In most cases, the millwright apprentice will start by observing, as well as by studying texts or other classroom materials. There may even be an actual classroom component to the training.

A millwright apprentice will often be trained in welding.
A millwright apprentice will often be trained in welding.

Once the millwright apprentice has been trained on the basic techniques and skills, as well as the safety concerns of the job, he or she will often go out on the job with an experienced millwright and begin learning the trade in a hands-on capacity. When machinery arrives at a job site, the millwright must be able to move the equipment into place, calculate what machinery is necessary to lift and move the items, and determine what tools are necessary for construction. It is likely that the millwright will need to have skills as an electrician, welder, driver, assembler, and repairman throughout the course of the machine's assembly and use at a job site.

Much of the machinery being used will be exceptionally heavy, so the millwright will need to use heavy machinery to transport the components. This means the millwright and his apprentice must not only learn how to drive the vehicles used to transport machinery, but also have a strong understanding of fluid mechanics and hydraulics, as hydraulic arms and cylinders are very commonly used on transport vehicles. The apprentice will learn, for example, how to calculate whether a particular transport vehicle, such as a forklift or telehandler, will be able to lift and move the machinery safely without becoming unstable.

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