What is a millwright?

In working kit, but not at work

2018 was a year of changes for me as I finished my Millwright Foundation program at Kwantlen Polytechnic University, quit slinging coffee at Starbucks, and started a millwright apprenticeship at a plastics recycling plant. As such, this has been a hectic year with lots of learning, hard work and hitting things with hammers.

But first: What is a millwright?

A millwright is a tradesperson who rights a mill.

Is that not enough?

Getting breakfast at the Red Wagon

Millwrights work in industrial settings installing, repairing and maintaining industrial equipment. It’s a mechanical trade that works across a variety of industries from construction to resource extraction to manufacturing.

This is how you toss salad

It’s been an interesting transition because I arrived in the trade as my boss says, ‘As green as can be.’ Before I started school the most mechanical things I had done were taking care of my bicycle and… that’s about it. I chose the trade because it was described as a ‘jack-of-all’ trade with a big emphasis on problem solving and what looked at the time as a short waitlist (I was wrong), and even though my process for choosing it was not the most rigorous I feel like I made a good choice because I enjoyed my schooling and am enjoying my work.

The plant I work at is a sorting facility. We receive curbside collection and some presorted recyclables from the provincial recycling authority and we run them through a system of conveyor belts, mechanical sorting machines, optical scanners, and past human sorters (otherwise known as low tech optical scanners since they both ‘see’ the material and move it to the correct conveyor belt) and then form bales of sorted plastics to be sold to processing facilities. In the past 7 months of working there I’ve learned how to clip, patch, and change belts, fix wire guides on balers, and unjam the line and keep it running. I’m still early in my apprenticeship but it’s been challenging, fun, and rewarding (when fixes work).    

Before our second, unorthodox, Xmas