Careers In Computerized Manufacturing Podcast
Podcast - Computerized Manufacturing
Amanda Swift, Lincoln Tech Graduate and CNC Machinist: You've got this piece of raw material and then you have just the right imagination and the skills of programming you to turn it into anything.
Jeff Hager, Lincoln Tech Instructor: Technology has changed the face of manufacturing.
Rick Calverley, Lincoln Tech Instructor: When we talk about manufacturing, that's a really, really big window, right? Now 27% of our gross domestic product is considered manufactured.
Amanda Cortes, Lincoln Tech hiring partner: The skill sets that they're learning at Lincoln Tech, gaining the hands on experience of the machines is definitely a step up from some of the other local programs that are just getting up and running.
Host: Welcome to the official podcast of Lincoln Tech. In this episode, we'll be looking at the computerized manufacturing program. We'll find out what you can expect to learn and what kind of jobs are out there. We'll also find out just what CNC machining actually means. But first, Lincoln Tech's mission is to provide superior education and training to our students for in-demand careers in a supportive, accessible learning environment, transforming students’ lives and adding value to their communities. And Lincoln's promise to our students is simple. We will work tirelessly to help you succeed on the road to new career opportunities. Now let's dive into some details about the program.
Calverley: My name's Rick Calverley. I'm the director of education at the Grand Prairie, Texas campus. I've been here about nine years and I'm also a CNC Manufacturing Specialist.
Hager: My name is Jeff Hager. I'm a career machinist and prototyper. My current employer is the Lincoln Tech School as the instructor for the AM&R program, which is our advanced manufacturing and robotics program.
Host: Rick and Jeff are the guys who can fill us in on all we need to know about this industry.
Calverley: You know, I think when we think of factory work, we think of stuff that's probably from the Industrial Revolution, right? It's dark & old, with people working really hard and long hours. The industry has changed so much, especially with the inclusion of all the technology we have now and computers. But today's manufacturing is just completely different. Now we're running all computer controlled machines. The shop floors are normally painted or polyurethane, and the machines are neat and clean. Shops are air conditioned.
Hager: Technology has changed the face of manufacturing. All right. When we think of factory work and we see people at work doing repetitious tasks, moving items back and forth and kind of a mundane existence, there's very little of that left in manufacturing today. It has been replaced by automation and sophisticated equipment to do those repetitive tasks and to provide a steady flow for manufactured product. So what that has changed in the in the sense of the manufacturing careers is we see a lot more that are technical related. Where we used to have mechanics and welders and things of that sort, machinists, now we're seeing automation technicians and engineering technicians fill in a lot of those positions. So there's still line mechanics and there's still machinists and millwrights and whatnot involved in manufacturing. But even those occupations have become a lot more technical. The typical factory of today looks more like a laboratory than a factory.
Host: CNC stands for computerized numerical control, but what exactly does that mean?
Calverley: You start talking about CNC manufacturing, we’re talking about something that's a little more specialized, a little more high-tech. CNC includes everything from laser engravers, CNC routers, CNC plasma cutters. The ones that we probably see and think of most are CNC milling machines. In Texas alone, they estimate that about 11,000 jobs will be created over the next five years just in Texas for CNC manufacturing. And nationally they're projecting about 165,000 jobs. So the job market is very strong. In 2007, in the industry, we saw we saw a real move to kind of offshore a lot of this work to Asia and that really failed and all that work came back. And reports say in the meantime that a lot of the employees, a lot of the technicians in the field have left the field. So there's a real gap right now for skilled labor in the field. And I think that's all we can do continuing to try and train that next generation and fill that gap that employers have to create their products.
Host: Okay. But let's not get ahead of ourselves. What kind of things will students learn in the computerized manufacturing program at Lincoln Tech?
Calverley: Our students, in the beginning, they're going to learn some of the basic math, which is all pretty simple, on computers and calculators and in phones. Now, we make the math part of it very easy. They're going to also learn how to measure parts, all the different tools that we use to accurately precision-measure. Pretty common in our field that we're measuring parts less than one-thousandth of an inch. So we have to be very accurate to learn how to measure and how to read blueprints.
Hager: Manufacturing or advanced manufacturing is a broad ranging subject, and there's so many different items to manufacture. The processes used in each are going to vary. You could be manufacturing anything from an automobile to a tiny little medical device of some sort. Electronics and pharmaceuticals all have different sets of requirements. The program at Lincoln Tech is designed to build foundational skills that can be utilized in any of those industries.
Host: Okay, Jeff, what do you mean by foundational skills?
Hager: We're concentrating on blueprint reading: understand the technical drawings and the requirements. We're concentrating on precision measurements to be able to work to these tolerances. We're doing machining, which is used in virtually every industry. We are looking at manual machining. We touch on that. But the biggest focus is on computerized numerical control or CNC machining.
Calverley: We start to teach our students how to write programs, how to set up all the tools that would be required to machine that part, how to set up the machine accurately, and how to just do that on a consistent basis.
Hager: That's where we focus a lot of time and energy because that's the technology that's utilized for most manufacturing processes. That's what's cutting the metal and that's what's used in metals and plastics and ceramics for cutting, for bending and stamping. All sorts of different technologies are using CNC programming. So we spend a lot of our course time learning the what the computer codes are writing and also using computer software to develop CNC machining.
Host: The program ensures that you know the basics, but that's not all. Tell us about it, Rick.
Calverley: One of the things that Lincoln does that most other schools won't try to do is get into what we call multi-axis programming. That's some of the real high end, very complicated machining, which is really where the entire industry is going. So I think it's a really comprehensive program. We cover all of the topics that a student will be required to do right when they get on the job on the first day. So they're all real-world skills that are required to go right to work today on those fields.
Host: How can studying at Lincoln Tech prepare you to go right to work today? The hands on training is done on the very same machines that are used in the industry.
Hager: We're an HTEC* partner school, so we get a lot of support from the Haas Corporation. Haas is the largest manufacturer of CNC machine tools in the United States. We have a fully equipped shop: we have CNC milling machines, we have CNC lathes, we have a five axis CNC milling machine which is among the most capable you will find. We have a multi-axis lathe that combines turning and milling capabilities in one machine and these are all HAAS machines that you would find in a typical manufacturing environment. These are not educational model machines. These are industrial machines. And that’s what the students are spending their time on. They’re doing their hands-on practicals on those machines. And we have a lot of it. there’s a lot of equipment and we spend a lot of time in the shop on those machines.
Calverley: Our classes are basically set up to be about 66% in the shop, actually on the machines. So they’re very well versed on how the machines work and they’re really skilled to go right into a machine shop on day one and start running the machines.
Host: Training at Lincoln Tech will give you the ability to go right to work. Let’s talk to someone who did that very thing.
S1: My name is Amanda Swift; I’m a 29-year-old girl that lives in Prospect, Connecticut, and I enrolled at Lincoln Tech for the manufacturing course back in February of 2021. And I just graduated February 2022. The reason why I chose Lincoln Tech is because I know it’s very hands on, you’re thrown in the field there, you’re told, hey, work on this machine, I’ll make these offsets here. We’re going to write a program today, or work on Master Cam. You really get the work experience. Everything’s hands on. That’s what I really like about Lincoln Tech. You’re not always reading a book; it’s easier when you actually do what you’re being taught. You know, you feel like you’re in the work environment there.
Host: Okay, Amanda, what's your job now that you've graduated from Lincoln Tech?
S1: Now that I’ve graduated from Lincoln Tech, I actually I moved into a micro machining department. I get to work with a seven-axis Milling machine, and I’m working on small medical devices with such tight tolerances. And not everyone gets the opportunity to do that. Micro machining is very tough. I don’t see it around really anywhere much. Most places they work in small tolerances like plus or minus five thousandths. I’m working with plus or minus five tenths. You know, just the smallest little movement can affect this piece, good or bad. It’s been a really great opportunity as I’ve grown so much there everyone is taking me more seriously since I’ve been there. I’ve grown a lot since Lincoln Tech.
Host: She makes small medical devices and that's really cool. You know what else is really cool? Working with NASA.
Hager: We have a partnership with NASA to produce a product for use on the space station. So at Lincoln Tech we’re using that partnership and that program to provide a customer base for our automation classes. We actually have a fully functional machining cell to produce handrail components for the International Space Station. We’re working with nascent national supplies, our materials, to their specifications and producing handrail components to be used in the in the space station. And we’re doing it with a fully automated work cell, which means there’s a robot to tender it and it’s using automated in-process inspection and automated work holding. And we can actually run batches of parts with no operator intervention.
Host: All of this information is great and the computerized manufacturing program sounds intriguing, but the reality is that you need a job and a career. Can this program really provide that?
Cortes: My name is Amanda Cortes. I’m the H.R. Generalist at Whippany Actuation systems. I am in charge of the strategic sourcing and recruiting efforts that we have here to fill our manufacturing positions, especially those in the CNC machine operator type roles. There’s been a constant shortage of labor when it comes to the CNC manufacturing area. So in the machine shop manufacturing period, a lot of the companies that used to be in the state of New Jersey, even just 20 years ago, there were there were manufacturing sites in every corner in the State. And over the course of time, companies have been moving offsite to lower cost areas within not only the United States, but internationally as well. So having the individuals who have a hands on experience within this industry or within manufacturing as a whole is been difficult to maintain.
Host: Keep in mind that she's speaking as a real life hiring manager. So that begs the question, do Lincoln Tech graduates have a leg up on the competition?
Cortes: Absolutely. I would say that the skill sets that they’re learning at Lincoln Tech, gaining their hands on experience with the machines, again, the fundamentals that they’re learning with the programming and the entry level stuff is definitely a step up from some of the other local programs that are just getting up and running. You know, Lincoln Tech’s been providing this teaching and programming platform for years now, so they’re a little bit ahead of the game in terms of competition for the other schools that are offering similar coursework in training opportunities in our machine shop alone. We have machine operators that are a little generic. They do a lot of metal cutting and they do a lot of deep turning and things of that nature. But we have seen see turning specialists, CNC milling specialists. We have grinders, we have gear cutters. There’s so many different facets of just machine operators out there that it’s incredible how many different avenues people have available to them. The growth opportunity for somebody with a machining and manufacturing background is never ending. If you really want to break it down, somebody who starts off as an entry level machine operator could eventually one day grow to become a manufacturing engineer if they have the ambition to do so. You know, we constantly talk about the fact that we would love to have someone promoted into a manufacturing engineering role who has that machine shop background, because it just helps you be more successful in that kind of a position because you already understand how those machines work and you’re able to take some of the skill sets that you learned in your mechanical engineering courses and apply them to your fundamental knowledge of how CNC machining is working. You can apply that to the actual manufacturing of the parts that we’re building here.
Host: We know that training at Lincoln Tech will provide you with the skills you need to go and hit the ground running. And we know that there are a lot of jobs and careers out there for you. But are you going to be on your own and hunting down one of those jobs? Not at all. Lincoln Tech’s career services team is here to help.
Calverley: Yes, that was one of the things that really attracted me to Lincoln when I was working in a machine shop making parts for the aerospace field. And when Lincoln called me, I did a little research on them. I was so impressed with the way they did their career services. It is really the main focus. In fact, I always say here, you know, our job is not really to graduate students, but it’s to put students in the career field of their choice. I went to a tech school when I was younger. I know when I graduated, they just handed me a piece of paper with a list of phone numbers and said, you know, good luck. Our career services team is there interacting with our students and their very first class. The very first month they’re here, they’re going in and they’re talking about their online profiles. How are they represented in the digital world? They talk to them about doing resumes. They talk to them about doing job interviews. We do mock interviews with our students. We help them build a resume. They are actively searching for jobs.
Hager: In some large corporations, it's very difficult to get a face to face meeting with anyone. You’re going to come up against “email your resume here” and hope somebody sees it or you’ll be put into a pool of applicants. But what career services that Lincoln Tech offers is they have a direct connection to these hiring managers so they can put your resume right on that manager’s desk. And in most cases, set up an interview. So it really expedites the process of landing a job.
S1: They ask you first: do you plan on getting a job before you’re done with school? Where do you see yourself? Jobs you’re looking at, companies, and they’ll really try to help you get in there. We had a classmate who really wanted to be a hard worker and, you know, it’s a little pushing and nudging. But before him, the course, he definitely got in there. You know, they’re willing to help you – even to this day, I get phone calls from career services. Hey, are you happy where you’re at? Do you want to grow? Or we see this, you know, a place might suit you. You know, if you’re really dedicated to wanting to get a good job and really pushing, they’re going to represent you as long as you have good attendance, and your grades were good and you really care about your trade.
Host: Are you still on the fence?
Hager: The work itself is nice. I’ve got friends that worked into their seventies as machinists, you know, because it’s not it’s not strenuous or backbreaking work. It’s along the lines of laboratory work or kitchen work. It’s shop work, but it’s usually in a nice environment. A lot of times it’s very precise, very precision work. Everything’s clean and orderly. That’s what makes it efficient. It’s not a bad way to make a living. There is a lot of opportunity, and the opportunity is varied. Everything from jewelry to electronics to sporting goods and aircraft, spacecraft, high performance cars - everything has a component that’s machined involved with that.
Calverley: It’s a different industry than any other industry because if you think about it, you can have an idea: I want to make a part for my car. I want to make something to make my life easier. It could be it can be anything. And I can take that idea and I can actually draw it and see a three dimensional model of it. And then I can actually go get a piece of material, and I can make that. And within, you know, maybe an hour or a couple of hours, I can have that piece right in my hand. It’s one of those really strange fields that it’s not just about the idea or the process, but you get to see this all the way through to through actually having something in your hand that you thought about. So it really is a different field. We're probably the only field that if we have an idea to make a machine, guess what? We build our own machines if we need to. If you really like being challenged, you really like to be diversified, if you like to be creative in the way you do things, you instantly see results with the work that you do and the thoughts that you have. So those are the kind of people I think that when I talk to them, they really get excited about CNC and all the opportunities that they have in the field.
S1: This is really cool stuff to me. And if you were saying, hey, I just took this random block of aluminum that I made into this awesome thing that would persuade me – like how do I get involved? You know, we had a student who’s an artist, and he wasn’t sure about the manufacturing field as well. Well, one day he drew my teacher right on the whiteboard, and my teacher the next day had a student in the morning class take a photo of it, converted to a master file, and he made a whole plaque with his face all over. And he’s showing all the classmates like, look at this. If you just draw a photo on a piece of paper and all of a sudden, boom, you got this awesome aluminum portrait of yourself, you know, you show them all the cool possibilities you could do is not just pushing a button and go and, you know, they’re really interested in that. Then they’ll do it, but it’s up to them. I never thought I’d see myself in manufacturing, and I love it.
Calverley: CNC manufacturing is a well-paid field. I can say this: I have a wife and five kids and my wife has been able to stay home and raise our kids the entire time I was in the CNC field. It’s been a lucrative business for us. I also I’ve lived in five different states myself and every state I’ve been able to go to and find a job right away. There’s tons of jobs all over the country. It really is a kind of a next level job. So I don’t think students that come out of here are going to have any problems being able to support themselves.
Host: Does the computerized manufacturing program and Lincoln Tech sound like a fit for you? Find out more information, schedule a campus visit and talk to instructors or the career services team online in LincolnTech.Edu.
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* HTEC = Haas Technical Education Community