The National Association of Manufacturing says 40 percent of the U.S. labor force is female but only 27 percent work in manufacturing. Kaila Machado and the Precision Machining Program at Front Range Community College (FRCC) are trying to change that.
How Kaila Became a Machinist
Kaila was one of 16 students in her high school graduating class from Verona, Mo. She started college to become a game designer but stopped when her son was born. She then became a certified nursing assistant.
In Colorado, she was operating a laser engraver for a wood-turning company. When the company went out of business, Rapid Production Tooling bought the laser engraver and hired Kaila to operate it.
“The managers here kept encouraging me into different areas of the company,” she says. “That’s how I got in to Front Range Community College. They said it would be in my best interest to start taking classes.”
Rapid Production Tooling is one of the dozens of manufacturers in northern Colorado that have FRCC trained machinists on staff. Many have hired more than one. There is a great need for machinists in Colorado. The Colorado Department of Labor and Employment says there will be 203 job openings per year in Colorado for machinists through 2024.
Machining Training for Women Only
Front Range has a women-only Introduction to Machining class. There’s also a co-ed class, but the women-only class has been successful. Although Kaila didn’t take that class, she believes “having that class helps them feel more comfortable and at ease. Then operating a machine becomes easier.”
This women-only class runs from Aug. 23 to Oct. 26, 2016, meeting 6 to 9 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays and 8 a.m. to noon Saturdays at the Front Range Advanced Technology Center.
Credit and Non-Credit Machining Classes
The training at Front Range can be either for credit, with classes taught weekdays, or non-credit, with classes taught evenings and Saturdays. Scholarships are available for both. Skills learned can lead to National Institute for Metalworking Skills (NIMS) credentials. The program also is Manufacturers Endorsed.
Kaila Earns NIMS Credentials
Kaila has completed the Introduction to Machining and the Intermediate Machining non-credit courses. She has earned NIMS credentials in safety, computer-numeric-controlled (CNC) lathe operator and CNC mill operator.
Working as a Machinist
Her main responsibility at Rapid Production Tooling is operating the electrical discharge machines (EDM). The EDM wire machines use electric voltage and a metallic wire as an electrode to cut or shape a part with keen precision, while the EDM sinker machines use graphite or copper electrodes instead of wire.
Being a machinist fits Kaila. “I’m a bit of an artist on my own time,” she says. “This is a different perspective. This is like a sculpture machine. I’m sculpting something that someone else has designed. I’m from a family with artistic ability. We can think outside the box.”
Advice for Women Machinists
If Kaila could give some advice to other women thinking of becoming a machinist, it would be “you have to have confidence. You can’t think you don’t have the skills. Be yourself, and don’t get pushed around.”
The Future for Machinists
Kaila is optimistic about her future as a machinist. “I see a lot of new things,” she says. “I would like to do more with EDM and lasers. The future of lasers is going to be big.”