Retired Alcoa millwright enjoys teaching trade to VC students

Ismael Rodriguez has taught Victoria College’s millwright classes for five years.

Ismael Rodriguez has been posed a familiar question during his five years as a millwright instructor for Victoria College.

“There are some who come to this class not knowing what a millwright really does,” said Rodriguez, who worked as a millwright at Alcoa for 20 years. “When they ask, I tell them a millwright is basically a general mechanic. But when you say ‘mechanic,’ people automatically think you’re talking about an auto mechanic.”

Millwrights do work on motors, but not the type that are found under the hood of an automobile. Most millwrights work at construction sites, chemical processing plants, power plants, factories and other industrial settings. Their job duties include installing and repairing industrial machinery and transferring machinery to needed locations.

“Millwrights do mostly construction-type jobs,” Rodriguez said. “They work on changing and rebuilding pumps and motors. There is probably more mechanical knowledge required than in pipefitting and welding. We do use cutting torches, and the students learn how to cut different thicknesses.”

Mark Hernandez of Placedo was selected to Dow Chemical Company’s U.S. Apprenticeship Program. He originally worked at Dow in operations and safety, but decided to take up millwrighting. Hernandez is currently a student in Rodriguez’s Level 5 class.

“Ismael has a lot of knowledge that he passes down to us,” Hernandez said. “The stuff I have learned in this class is stuff I now frequently do on the job.”

“Many of our students are already employed and are sent to the class to get the extra training they may need,” Rodriguez said. “Some students complete only a couple of levels and wind up getting a job.”

Rodriguez said he gets satisfaction from seeing his students take what they learn from his classes to the jobsite.

“I love teaching these classes,” Rodriguez said. “I enjoy it when I get to write a letter of recommendation for them to an employer.”

Victoria College offers five levels of millwright training. Students receive a National Center for Construction Education & Research (NCCER) certificate upon successful completion of each level. Successful completion of Victoria College’s Core Curriculum: Introductory Craft Skills course is required before a student can attend the Level 1 class. A high school diploma or GED is not required to take the millwright classes.

According to Workforce Solutions of the Golden Crescent, the median salary for a millwright is $47,000. The Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasts a 10 percent increase in demand for millwrights over the next five years.

For more information on millwright and other industrial trades offerings at Victoria College, call (361) 573-3291 or visit