Trying to decide what you want to do when you grow up? Or maybe you are looking to change your career path?
It really doesn’t matter why you are here, I just hope that maybe I can convince you to consider a move into one of the most progressive and exciting industries out there – machine shop jobs. When I was in high school and trying to decide between auto mechanics and machine shop, my father suggested the machine shop because it was something he had done and there were lots of machine shop jobs available. Well, I didn’t have any idea what machining was say nothing of CNC machines and I had no interest. I signed up for auto shop instead. Fortunately for me, the class was full and I was forced into the machine shop class. After the class started it did not take me long to fall in love. However, after I finished high school, trade school and an apprenticeship program, it seemed as though all the machine shop jobs had dried up. So here’s my first bit of advice … don’t base your future on now. It’s not an easy thing to comprehend when you are young, but just because there are jobs available now doesn’t mean there will be in five years. So, find something that you love to do, can do well, and can make a career out of. Sometimes easier said than done, but if you love what you do you will find a way to make it happen.
What’s so great about machine shop jobs?
Clearly, I am biased. I think I am in the greatest industry in the world. With machine shop jobs there is endless variety, always something new to learn, and while production might go overseas there will never be a day that a good machinist is not in demand.
There are very few things that you will be able to find in your immediate surroundings that have not been through a machine shop somewhere in the production process. Even the plastic toys that your kids play with, or the water bottles your favorite player drinks from have been through a machine shop to produce the mold, which in turn produces the final product. No matter what industry interests you the most, somewhere along the line there is a machine shop job that directly supports that industry. Here’s an example video below … ever wonder how radio-controlled drones (quadrocopters) are made?
What’s it take to qualify for machine shop jobs?
No matter what interests you – whether it’s getting your hands dirty, math, or computers – there is a solid career waiting for you in the machine shop. Manual machining requires not only mechanical aptitude, but a steady hand, and a good eye. A good manual machinist is becoming difficult to find, which is why finding a decent paycheck as a manual machinist is not too difficult. CNC programmers and QC inspectors tend to be math heavy. Don’t get me wrong, math is a vital part of working in any capacity in the machine shop, but as far as crunching numbers and putting those numbers to action programmers take the cake. Any time you delve into the world of CNC machines, a comfort with computers is important. Since CAD/CAM packages are PC based and many CNC controls have also moved that direction there is no getting away from it. If you enjoy computers, have an affinity for math and don’t mind getting your hands dirty, you will never be out of work for long.
There seems to be a growing trend lately, though it’s more like a return to old practices where companies are starting to hire with less experience and complete on the job training. This makes it a little easier to get a job in a shop since they aren’t going to require ten years of experience and an associate’s degree just to get your foot in the door. It might take a little longer to climb the ladder to the higher paying jobs, but it certainly opens doors that weren’t open when I was breaking into the industry. Keep an open mind, always stay hungry for more knowledge and work your ass off … you will have a long and prosperous career in the machine shop.
Written by: Kevin Mulhern is an Applications Engineer at DATRON Dynamics. He has over a decade of experience in the industry starting as an apprentice learning the old school ways of manual machining, as well as nearly ten years as a CNC Programmer/Machinist. This industry experience affords him the knowledge to understand the challenges facing our customers on a daily basis.