Ever seen pictures of the dreary factories from the old days? Walk in to an advanced manufacturing facility today and you will see the contrast. They’re clean, bright spaces with employees moving from project to project working on sophisticated machinery.
A computer numerical controls (CNC) operator holds a highly specialized position in production companies. CNC operators work with computer-programmed machinery that performs a variety of functions that include drilling, cutting and shaping materials.
Tidewater Community College is ready to prepare you for this in-demand field with its Career Studies Certificate in Computer Numerical Controls Operator.
Trained operators are needed to work with precision machinery from setup to operation to produce parts and tools from metal, plastic or other materials. Workers have a good sense of what the machines should look and sound like when operating.
“In my class, I teach students how to look at blueprints, plot coordinates and then program the machines. We become so familiar with the machines that we know when things are humming along well and when a problem may be developing,” said Alan Burford, a TCC instructor and engineer with Norfolk Naval Shipyard.
What will you study?
You will have classes in numerical controls, machine shop practices, orientation to engineering and technologies and introduction to computer-aided manufacturing. A background in math is essential. You will use trigonometry, algebra and basic math to calculate information needed to program machines.
Inside the lab:
TCC’s program includes plenty of hands-on work on real machines in our state-of-the-art Precision Machining Lab on the Chesapeake Campus. The lab includes computer numerical control mills and lathes, a computer-control surface grinder, computer measurement machines and numerous manual machine tools.
Can I get a job?
Absolutely! There is a solid job market for CNC operators locally and nationwide. Payscale.com puts the national average for the annual salary at $43,000. TCC’s program is the only one of its kind in Southeastern Virginia and it will prepare you to succeed in the field.
What students in the program say:
“This is the future of machining. It’s important to keep upgrading skills, and this program helps me do just that.” – James Huntzinger, CNC operator for Sumitomo Corporation
“After running my own handyman business, I’m looking for a position that offers job security, benefits and a retirement plan. It’s been amazing to learn how to operate these machines and see what they can do.” – Nicholas Jankowski, TCC student and currently self-employed
“I’m excited to learn a new trade and hope to be working in the field soon.” – David Hart, a Navy veteran preparing for his third career
“I’m already working in the field and completing the coursework to gain knowledge and help fine tune my skills. It’s helping me on the job right now because when I see codes on the machine, I can make sense of them.” – Chris Wever, machinist at CONCOA Manufacturing
Where can you go?
Upon completion of the certificate, you will have the knowledge you need to obtain the National Institute for Metalworking Skills (NIMS) industry certification.
Continue your education by applying your credits toward TCC’s Associate of Applied Science in Mechatronics.
A word from the instructor:
“It can be intimidating to try to do this work without some kind of training. These classes definitely give students a leg up. When you complete the program, you can be employed at any manufacturing firm in the area and be well prepared for the work.” – Burford
The bottom line:
“Manufacturing jobs are returning to this country, and we need CNC operators to make this happen. There is a solid job market here in Hampton Roads, and we are the only game in town teaching people how to do this.” – Thomas Stout, dean of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math on the Chesapeake Campus.