Machining For Dummies
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Perhaps the best way to become a successful machinist is to attend vocational school. Working one's way up the ladder isn't the worst way to learn a trade, although doing so requires an inquisitive mind, an abundance of patience, and the ability to put up with the hooting and hollering from the guys in the milling department.

The Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME) says the average manufacturing worker in the United States earns more than $77,000 annually, but fewer than 40 percent of the parents of school-aged children consider manufacturing a good paying profession. And the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) says that 3.5 million manufacturing jobs will be needed over the next decade, but 2 million will go unfilled due to a shortage of workers. Still think that Bachelor of Fine Arts degree you've been pursuing is a good idea?

For those of you who'd rather avoid the trials of learning on the job, there are plenty of training options available. Aside from the vocational-technical schools already mentioned (most of which offer excellent one- to two-year programs), a number of online classes exist:
  • The Society of Manufacturing Engineers offers its Tooling-U SME series of training materials. These include instructor-led and self-paced classes, on-demand e-books and videos, and industry-recognized certifications to demonstrate achievement.
  • The National Institute for Metalworking Skills (NIMS) works with high schools, vocational technical centers, community colleges, machine tool builders, and others to develop accreditations, define standards and credentials against which students are measured, and assist with apprenticeships.
  • Machine tool builder Haas Automation's HTEC Network (Haas Technical Education Center) partners with schools and educators, supplying them with equipment, software, and supplies. And the Gene Haas Foundation donates millions in scholarships and grants to a variety of industry educational programs.
  • One beneficiary of the Gene Haas Foundation (as well as other industry partners) is Workshops for Warriors, a non-profit school based in San Diego. WFW offers 16-week machining and welding courses to transitioning service members. It's goal? "Rebuilding American manufacturing one veteran at a time."
This is just the tip of the iceberg. Recognizing that manufacturing cannot succeed without skilled employees, schools across North America, together with machine-tool builders, software and tooling providers, and a host of manufacturing companies have stepped up to the plate, offering money, time, and knowledge in an effort to develop future talent. It's truly a good time to enter the trades.

You might be the top dog at your shop, but remember this: There's always more to learn (and other dogs nipping at your heels). Manufacturing is a deep, ever-changing topic, and no one masters all of it, ever. If you're not taking online classes, attending seminars, or at least reading books and trade publications, you're falling behind. And saying your company doesn't pay for it is no excuse. For starters, you're unlikely to get a job working for someone that will pay for it if you're going to sit on your hands complaining. Second, there's plenty of free or almost free information out there — subscribe to magazines, buy a For Dummies book, or take some night classes on your own dime. Just get learning. You won't regret it.

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book author:

Kip Hanson finished school in 1979 and got a job at a small machine shop in Minneapolis. Over the next thirty years, he worked his way up and eventually moved into manufacturing consulting and freelance writing. Today he has nearly 600 published articles across dozens of magazines and websites, covering everything from machinery and tooling to metrology and 3D printing.

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