Student Millwrights: Why not hire one for the summer?

Summer is upon us and hopefully the livin’ is easy! For some in the mechanical maintenance world the summer time is a slow time; for others, it’s go go go. For instance, in cement plants they have their maintenance shut down in the winter months when it’s slow because their summer is full steam ahead for production. No matter what industry you’re in, one of your pressing problems is making sure that you have adequate maintenance coverage or man-power over the vacation period.

You need the coverage because break downs can happen and do happen when least expected. And how are your staffing levels going into the summer? Most companies I see are still very lean and mean and could actually add one or two new staff members. However, this is deferred. Why? Well because it’s the summer and someone said lets hold off until the fall to get the extra bodies!


So if you are in maintenance supervision you could be in the juggling mode right about now. And if something does go down when you are short staffed you can always use the local union hall such as the Millwright Regional Council of Ontario who always provide great cover. I know because back in my time as a supervisor I used them a lot. But for your everyday requirements, have you thought about a summer student? Not just any student but one who is training to become a Millwright when his/her college days are through?

This is a great benefit for you because these kids come with a lot of shop knowledge already. They have a better understanding of safety which as we all know is one of the big concerns when hiring students. The greatest benefit is that it’s a Win-Win for both parties. Let’s face it, quite often you just need an extra pair of hands to work with one of your tradesmen but one who knows hand tools, hardware, etc. This means if you send him/her to the shop, they come back with the right parts. You also get to observe them on the job because this may be someone you want to hire as an apprentice in the future. In fact, you may want more than one if you look at the average age of your current staff. And for the student, they receive the work experience they need in their chosen career. A Win-Win.

I recently joined the Program Advisory Committee for the Mechanical Technician – Mechanical Maintenance and Control Program at Durham College. It was an honor to be asked because to me it’s a prestigious committee which is chaired by Chris Tozer of Ontario Power Generation (OPG). OPG as we all know is a community supportive company as is the Millwright Regional Council of Ontario, Local 2309, represented on the committee by Drew Chittenden. Both of these organizations also have a vested interest in making sure that we have a steady supply of quality tradesmen and women that can help grow Canadian industries. Which looks like another Win-Win. Will your organization be needing millwrights/maintenance mechanics in the future?

Durham College has one of the best training facilities that I have seen and is matched by the quality of their training instructors. Their machine shop is very well tooled as is their workshop which has received many donations of actual pumps and motor sets so that the students get to work in real world applications. Money as you can imagine is always tight but when available they invest in some top end equipment. For instance, they have a full precision Laser based geometric measurement system that can measure straightness, flatness, square, plumb, level and parallel (see photo below). They also use optical equipment, such as an optical level and jig transit to take similar measurements giving the student an understanding of old and new technologies. But the bottom line at this college is they offer one, if not the best millwright apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship programs in Ontario.

Perhaps it’s time to look into a Win-Win situation for your maintenance department this summer?