What are NIMS Certifications and how do I obtain them?
What is the NIMS Certification?
As the workforce for manufacturing occupations grows, the need for CNC (Computer Numerically Controlled) and MAM (Machining & Manufacturing) workers grows with it1. Before you go into the workforce you will want to train and graduate from an accredited trade school. This will ensure you are trained correctly and up-to-date on the most critical skills needed to be successful. Then you will want to take the NIMS credentials that area associated with your related occupation. NIMS certifications are earned by students, trainees, apprentices, and employees.
Although there are many organizations and associations that govern standards in manufacturing, one in particular focuses on metalworking. The National Institute for Metalworking Skills Inc. (NIMS) is a non-profit organization that was formed in 1995 to develop an industry standard for the machining and manufacturing trade. They are a part of five major industry trade associations: The Association for Manufacturing Technology, the National Tooling & Machining Association, the Precision Machine Products Association, the Precision Metal-Forming Association, and the Technology and Manufacturing Association. These partners have invested over $7.5 million in private funds for the development of NIMS standards and certifications2.
Why are NIMS Certifications Important?
As of today, over 6,000 companies rely on evaluating a candidate’s NIMS certifications when hiring or promoting employees. There are currently 20 credentials within the machining standards that an employee can earn, each of which represents a specific subset of skills and knowledge that a person has demonstrated proficiency in. The more certifications a machinist earns, the more skill you have shown. A machinist with the right credentials is a valuable resource for an employer. Some of the credentials you can earn to show aptitude in practical experience include: CNC Lathe Programming Setup & Operations, CNC Lathe Operation (Level 1 &2), CNC Mill Operation (Level 1 & 2), Job Planning, Benchwork & Layout (Level 1), Measurement, Material & Safety (Level 1), and beyond.
What should you do to prepare for NIMS exams?
There are some very helpful things you can do to prepare for NIMS exams including:
- Enrolling into a NIMS accredited training trade school
- Practicing hands-on training
- Studying for the exams
- Taking NIMS practice exams with instructor supervision
The NIMS Organization actively accredits training programs for education institutions like high schools, career-tech centers, community and technical colleges, four-year universities, and more. With Technical Institutes like Lincoln Tech, you will learn hands-on curriculum that was built upon industry standards and based on NIMS credentialing. When you take courses like Blueprint Reading & Precision Measurement, Machining Process, CNC Turning Setup & Programming, and CNC Milling Setup & Programming, you will learn everything you need to start earning NIMS certifications.
After successfully completing your courses, you will have the opportunity to sit for 6 NIMS exams, including:
- Level One Materials, Measurements, & Safety
- Level One Job Planning, Bench work & Layout
- CNC Milling Setup, & Programming
- CNC Operator – Milling
- CNC Turning Setup & Programming
- CNC Operator – Turning
Although it is highly recommended, you do not have to have any formal education to sit for NIMS exams. You may take assessments without completing a formal training program by applying prior knowledge and experience. You earn certifications to verify skills and signal eligibility for jobs and advancement potential3. However, to sit for the NIMS exams, you must:
- Register as a candidate (Registration is only needed once per person for life)
- Purchase a subscription or test pass before proctor or evaluator assignments are made
- Be 18 years or older (Exceptions can be made for candidates younger than 18, if they are enrolled in a formal, state-recognized, metalworking training program)
To earn a NIMS credential you must successfully pass a theory exam and perform a documented series of skill checks and demonstrations. While NIMS credentials are standard industry practice, employers are often faced with having to offer on-the-job training (OJT), as well. This is because regardless of certifications and training, some skills are unique to that company and can only be taught with OJT. With organizations like NIMS, companies are now able to regulate most common techniques and standards, as well as offer their employees OJT. Using these certifications as a reference, employers are able to hire employees and pay them an accurate wage based on the practical skills that specific employee has shown. It is very important to your career and future of CNC and MAM to pass the NIMS tests and earn the appropriate certifications that are relevant to you. This shows your employer exactly what skills you bring to the company. With the proper preparation and determination, you can gain the certifications you need to be successful in your career.
1 “51-4081.00 - Multiple Machine Tool Setters, Operators, and Tenders, Metal and Plastic.” O*NET OnLine, https://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/51-4081.00.
2 “About NIMS.” Nims, https://www.nims-skills.org/node/74
3 “Skills Certifications - NIMS” - https://www.themanufacturinginstitute.org/workers/skills-certifications/nims/ Retrieved 8/16/2022.