Katie Veronin has always liked working with her hands.
After graduating from high school in Colorado Springs, she went off to college interested in art but ended up in culinary school in Utah, graduating in 2015. “I came back to Colorado and started working for a chocolate shop in Boulder, but I wanted to do something where I could create,” says Katie.
Soon, though, Katie felt herself thinking about careers that could offer her more security and advancement opportunities. That’s when she turned to FRCC—and a career path that, even today, doesn’t have a lot representation from women.*
“The machining program caught my eye as something that I could pick up pretty quickly and that would pay well,” she says. Katie enrolled in the Manual Machining certificate program in 2018 and was off and running. Her classes took place at the Boulder County Campus in Longmont—and have since moved down the street to FRCC’s brand-new Center for Integrated Manufacturing (CIM).
The FRCC experience exceeded Katie’s expectations. “I really enjoy school and learning,” she says. “But when we started working with the machinery, I just fell in love.” Katie moved into the CNC (Computer Numerical Control) Machining certificate program as well, finishing the sequence in 2019.
Underrepresented in Manufacturing
Nicole Gervace, associate director of CIM technology at FRCC, says that she’s thrilled to welcome women like Katie into the machining and other manufacturing programs at the Center for Integrated Manufacturing. “I’d estimate that fewer than 5% of the students in our manufacturing programs are women, and that statistic probably extends into the workforce as well,” she says.
In 2020, Nicole was contacted by the National Alliance for Partnerships in Equity’s Make the Future program to join a panel discussion and share information about FRCC’s manufacturing programs. NAPE seeks to encourage young women to explore high-demand advanced manufacturing education programs and careers—and they wanted insight about how FRCC is doing so through the CIM.
“Machining and our other advanced manufacturing programs offer students excellent advancement opportunities and a way to kick-start a career quickly without years of schooling,” says Nicole. “In this pandemic, we’re finding many have lost their careers or want something different, and these types of jobs are really appealing. We hear consistently here in Colorado that there are jobs to fill and not enough people to fill them. Advanced manufacturing is a great path for anyone and we encourage women to explore it.”
Proactive About Job Hunting
After finishing her certificates, Katie was on the hunt for a machining job—but she didn’t just scour FRCC’s machining job board. “I’d look it over every day and reach out to companies, even if I didn’t always fit the profile of the position they were hiring for, and I’d ask if I could tour their facility or learn more about the company,” says Katie. Doing so gave her exposure to all types of different companies and machining shops. “If I liked a company, at the end of the tour I would give them a résumé.”
That’s how Katie found Operose Manufacturing, a company based in Frederick, Colorado, that specializes in precision machining for low and high volume. Her efforts landed her an interview, followed by a job in summer 2019—and she’s been there ever since. “I’ve been working in the lathe department for most of my time here, but a few months ago I started working on this different machine that is the union of a lathe and a mill, so I was given the chance to step up and learn how to program it and make jobs on it,” she says.
A Solid Foundation
Katie says she would definitely recommend FRCC’s Precision Machining program to others. It teaches the latest technology and machining skills to students who want to enter the world of machining, even without experience.
“My decision to enter this career was based on the feeling that I can do anything I want to do, whether it is a male-dominated field or a female-dominated field,” she says. “I’d encourage other women not to sell themselves short because these programs educate in areas that might not jump out initially as areas they would be good at. Don’t sell yourself short because of society’s stereotypes. For me personally, manufacturing is a career I’m excited about doing.”
Katie’s not done furthering her education. “Having Front Range Community College and the Center for Integrated Manufacturing nearby is such a great resource,” Katie says. Since completing her certificates, she has taken a Geometric Dimensioning and Tolerances class to improve her ability to read and interpret blueprints and engineering drawings. “FRCC gave me a leg up in the workforce and has taught me to be resourceful. I’m very glad I went there to start my machining career.”