If I asked you to describe the personality traits or characteristics that comprise a good fireman, you might reply with answers like “brave,” “caring,” or “fast-thinker.” If I asked you to describe a salesperson, you might say “friendly,” “persuasive,” or “slick.”
Now, what about a machinist? If I asked you to describe their personality traits, would you be able to do so quickly, or would it take a few moments of hard thinking? Maybe you share many of the same qualities as a skilled machinist and just don’t know it…
At Leading Edge Industrial (LEI), we see a common issue with schools failing to introduce mechanical and technical courses to students with the same personality traits as successful machinists. If these traits are recognized early on in their school career, teachers could help students pursue an education and profession within the mechanical or technical industry. By pushing more like-minded, mechanically-inclined students to take technical classes, schools can help rectify the skill gap (a lack of qualified employees with mechanical skills) within the United States.
So the big question that remains is: what personality traits and characteristics tend to make successful machinists?
When it comes to accuracy, machinists live and die by fractions of centimeters and inches. In order for machinists to produce complex car pieces, HVAC equipment, aeronautical parts, and countless other pieces, precision is vital. People who are detail-oriented and strive for perfection generally succeed as machinists. Firm attention is required in order to handle expensive, dangerous machinery and produce cutting-edge products to specification.
When someone has an analytical personality, they are able to collect information quickly and efficiently and then analyze that information in order to make a decision. With curiosity as a driving force, analytical thinkers love to explore the root causes of processes and understand the ways in which systems interact. For machinists, having analytical personality traits are essential, because they are able to use those traits to find creative solutions to complex problems.
Creative Problem Solving
In the world of machining, problems are experienced almost daily. Perhaps you must operate a machine that wasn’t setup or programmed correctly by another employee, or maybe you need to adjust a machine just right (the feed rate, rpm, depth-of-cut, etc.) in order to produce a certain part. No matter the scenario, creative problem solving is a must. This involves analyzing the entire machine, nailing down the actual problem, and then brainstorming solutions in order to develop an action plan to tackle the problem. Since creative problem solving can often be an arduous, frustrating process, a great deal of patience is also needed.
As mentioned above concerning creative problem solving, patience is an absolute necessity for machinists. When it comes to creating an intricate piece, solving a coding problem, or developing a complex schematic—patience, persistence, and tolerance is needed. Any experienced machinist will tell you that the best lessons are often learned through mistakes and trial-and-error, which can undoubtedly be frustrating at first. By having patience and focus (along with a good sense of humor), many machinists are able to accomplish their goals and create the correct pieces and parts.
In order to be a successful machinist, you must take care and pride in your work. By having prideful traits, you strive to do the best possible job you can, and you feel a sense of pleasure when you complete a job accurately. Pride also allows you to fully embrace your role as a machinist and constantly strive to better your processes, skills, and overall craftsmanship.
How Can You Tell if a Student Would be a Good Machinist?
Now that we have discussed some of the most important traits that machinists possess (though there are countless others), how can teachers know if their students have these skills?
Generally, students who show an affinity for technical subjects like math and science usually possess the above skills. These students are also independent thinkers, often solving problems without the help of other students or teachers. These students are also proficient with quickly analyzing problems (such as word problems or puzzles) and providing unique solutions. Many of these students also prefer to work by themselves—finding the solutions they need without the weight of a large group to slow them down.
If you notice a student with these traits, they should be encouraged to try shop classes, design programs, and other technical courses. By encouraging a student to experiment with less promoted courses (like woodworking), they may be able to discover their passions and find their dream career within the mechanical field. At Leading Edge Industrial, we hope that if increased attention is given to mechanically-inclined students, we may be able to see a rise in skilled machinists in the years to come. Read more about encouraging future machinists here!