May 19, 2014
Machinist

What is a Machinist?

Are you looking for a great career with interesting work, good pay and above all, lifetime job security? You can’t do much better than becoming a precision machinist. Because of the aging of the workforce and the recent trend bringing lots of manufacturing work back to the United States, local and national companies have a severe shortage of trained workers. Have the skills? Want to stay in Colorado forever? There are plenty of machine shops in which you can choose to work. Want to move to California or Florida or North Carolina? You’ll be able to write your own ticket, if you have the skills.

What is a machine shop?

Machine shops manufacture metal parts for industries such as medical, aerospace, defense, sporting equipment and energy. A company in Broomfield makes parts that are used in spinal surgery. The doctor calls in the specifications and tells the company when the surgery is scheduled. The company machines the part and ships it to the doctor just in time.

What do machinists actually do?

A machinist could be involved in the design and programming of a part to make it ready to run on the machine tool. Part design also involves figuring out which machine tool to use and how to minimize the set up and run time to maximize productivity. If you want to see how a modern machine tool works, check out this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lcGHtI9Lql4.

Where are machinists trained?

Front Range Community College has two machining programs. Classes for the non-credit program are held in the evenings and on Saturday. The sessions are 10 weeks long and are designed to provide the necessary skills required for an entry level machining position. Most students take the Introduction to Machining and Intermediate Machining modules (total class time 170 hours over 20 weeks) and then attend a Machining Career Fair during which they can meet employers who have entry level positions to fill. The student receives a fast-track immersion into the technology and skills, gaining just enough knowledge to become employed. Later that same student can return to FRCC to take the more complex non-credit classes in topics like CAD/CAM, Advanced CNC Machining and Quality Inspection which can lead to career progression and wage increases.

Are you available to take classes during the day?

FRCC’s credit machining program offers a 35-credit certificate in Precision Machining Technology. Classes will be held during the daytime only, but the students will spend much more time on the machines honing their skills. The first certificate, Manual Machining is 17 credits and includes the basic courses like Safety, Intro to Machine Shop, Shop Math and Blueprint Reading. Later in the semester the student takes 6 credits of manual mill and lathe and learns how to “cut chips” the old way before being introduced to Computer Numeric Control (CNC) mills and lathes in the second semester (12 credits including six credits of MasterCam the software used to program the CNC machines). Finally the third semester will include the 6-credit Quality for the Machine Shop certificate.

Should you choose credit or non-credit training?

In summary, if you are working during the day or are unemployed/under-employed and need to find work as soon as possible, the non-credit program is probably right for you. If you are just finishing high school, are interested in college credit that can be transferred to other community colleges in Colorado, or just have the time to gain the additional skills that will result by attending for a full semester, then the credit program may be a better option. Either way, becoming a precision machinist is a great way to start your career since even engineers need to know how to make parts. If you are changing careers, want a challenging profession, and like working with your hands, precision machining might be a great choice.

Still not sure about machining or if it’s right for you?

Join us for our open house on May 22 from 2:00 to 3:30 p.m. at the new Advanced Technology Center, 2120 Miller Drive, in Longmont.  There will be tours of the facility and many of our instructors will be on hand to answer your questions. If you can’t make it to the open house, get in touch with me (George.newman@frontrange.edu) and I’ll arrange a tour so you can see the machines for yourself.

 

About the author:

George Newman works on creating programs in manufacturing for Front Range Community College. He has a B.S. in chemical engineering from Carnegie-Mellon University, an MBA from Harvard Business School, and 30 years of experience in sales, marketing, and operations of manufacturing businesses. George is a Civil War buff and he and his wife enjoy hiking, biking, and gardening.