The manufacturing industry is currently facing a shortage of skilled workers – workers who are trained and knowledgeable in their trade. According to a recent report by the Manufacturing Institute and Deloitte, about 4.6 million jobs will need to be filled by 2028. However, more than half (about 2.4 million) of those jobs may be left open due to a lack of trained workers.
Those looking to pursue a career in manufacturing, as a result, will need to come prepared with the right training and skillsets under their belt. This is especially true for those looking to work in CNC. CNC machining is a very specific field, requiring very specific skills working with metal.
So, how do you develop the skills to succeed in CNC? While there are many ways to train for a career, there are two common paths that aspiring machinists will take: a CNC apprenticeship, or a college-level CNC training program.
Both an apprenticeship and CNC machinist training (in school) can prepare you for the workforce. Both are recognized by employers, and both will provide you with the technical instruction needed for a precision machining career. However, CNC apprenticeships and college programs differ in many ways.
Below, we breakdown each possible path.
What is a CNC Apprenticeship Program?
An apprenticeship is a type of training program that provides hands-on, practical learning experiences in a given field. For aspiring CNC machinists, an apprenticeship involves learning CNC tactics and machinery “on the job,” directly under a manufacturing employer.
Generally, CNC apprenticeships follow a “learn and earn” model. Similar to new hires, apprentices will receive income throughout their job training. Apprentices also receive pay increases as they meet set benchmarks, motivating them to advance and become more proficient in their skill.
CNC apprenticeships differ from a new job, however, in that they are designed to be educational programs. They are sponsored by an institution or organization (such as businesses, industry associations, or colleges) that is responsible for overseeing the apprenticeship program. At the end of the program, trainees are granted a nationally-recognized credential (which varies by apprenticeship). CNC apprenticeships can last anywhere between one and six years, depending on the program model.
Sometimes, CNC apprenticeship programs will partner with local colleges and universities, enabling you to earn college credit as an apprentice and transfer that into a degree program later on. This becomes a valuable add-on of apprenticeships, as more manufacturing employers are seeking candidates with a college education, or encouraging current employees to pursue one.
What is a Career-Focused CNC Training Program?
A CNC machining program, offered at a postsecondary institution, is a structured educational program that can also put you on track towards a rewarding career in CNC. Unlike an apprenticeship, these CNC programs combine classroom instruction with hands-on training in machine operation.
Now, we know your next question: What’s the benefit of classroom learning in a hands-on career like CNC? This is a valid question we often hear from prospective students. The truth is, employers value certain skills beyond technical know-how – skills that are taught, and hammered upon, in a college program. For example, some of the top-desired skills among Connecticut manufacturers today include:
- STEM skills
- Communication skills
- Tool and die experience
- Critical thinking skills
- Complex problem solving
- Automation maintenance
- Machining learning and programming
- Data analytics
- Customer service
Not all of these can be acquired through daily job training in an apprenticeship. However, through college-level CNC training, this level of skills development is the expectation. Students of Goodwin’s CNC machining program, for example, walk away with the ability to:
- Collaborate effectively and efficiently with others
- Practice critical thinking skills in any professional environment
- Apply scientific methods and problem analyses to manufacturing
- Apply a working comprehension of manufacturing mathematics
- Exhibit management skills in their future career setting
- Integrate their knowledge of social sciences and humanities into their CNC career
- Enhance their creative genius and use it to reach career goals
- Understand the mission, vision, and core values of their industry/employer
- Be an active and meaningful participant in in CNC operations for the long-term
In addition, students walk away with the hands-on experience that all employers desire. Students learn on state-of-the-art machinery, such as our new CNC 3-axis milling and turning machines. They learn the ins and outs of technical drawings, specifications, and computer-aided machining software. They also gain an in-depth understanding of Mastercam and the skills needed to program tool location, motion, feed, and speed. At the end of our CNC program, like an apprenticeship, they are eligible to earn nationally-recognized credentials from the Manufacturing Skill Standards Council (MSSC) and the National Institute for Metalworking Skills (NIMS).
CNC training programs vary by college or university. Some are offered at the certificate level and completed in just a matter of months. Some offer associate degrees, taking about two years to complete. At Goodwin, aspiring CNC machinists have a variety of paths to choose from, including:
- Associate degree program
- 30-credit certificate program
- 18-credit certificate program
- Accelerated CNC and Manufacturing Technology certificate program
Connecticut needs machinists, so it is our goal to get you into a CNC career fast. That is one of the benefits of choosing the college path. While apprenticeships can last for several years (up to 6), Goodwin’s CNC training programs can all be completed in under two years’ time. However, flexibility is at the core of our programs. If you wish for a fast track, the certificate programs can be completed in less than one year, and the accelerated CNC certificate program can be finished in under 23 weeks.
Similar to an apprenticeship, Goodwin will also connect you with career prospects after graduation. Our Career Services team is dedicated to helping you apply to jobs, network within the industry, and land the CNC machining career of your dreams. We have connections with manufacturers throughout the state, and our programs are all designed with their needs in mind. Thanks these local partnerships, many students are eligible for internship, scholarship, and job placement opportunities.
CNC Apprenticeships vs. Certificate and Degree Programs
For careers such as manufacturing, there is some debate on whether an apprenticeship or a college program – complete with theoretical classes and hands-on training – is best. Many assume that an apprenticeship is the “better” route, in that it offers a stable salary and on-the-job training. While this is true for many, an apprenticeship may not be right for everyone – especially if you are seeking a job that requires a college education.
In Connecticut, about one-quarter of manufacturing employers today are seeking applicants with a 6-12 month college certificate. Another 18 percent of manufacturers are seeking applicants that have either:
- Completed 5-10 weeks of intensive training in college, or
- Completed a 5-week incumbent training program in their field
Despite the popular belief that manufacturing workers do not need to go to school, there is a growing reliance on it. As the manufacturing industry embraces Industry 4.0 – a subset of the fourth industrial revolution – there will be a greater demand for college education among highly-skilled workers like CNC machinists. According to the latest CBIA manufacturing survey, Connecticut manufacturers are concerned about a growing skills gap (and therefore, need for more education) among workers as they adapt to a more digital, technology, and data-driven industry.
If you are looking to get started on a career in CNC machining, do not hesitate to reach out to learn more about Goodwin’s manufacturing and machining school. We can help you understand the benefits of a training program, and whether a certificate, degree, or apprenticeship is right for you. Call 800-889-3282 or visit us online to learn more.
Goodwin University is a nonprofit institution of higher education and is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE), formerly known as the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC). Goodwin University was founded in 1999, with the goal of serving a diverse student population with career-focused degree programs that lead to strong employment outcomes.