Employers are having an increasingly difficult time finding workers that possess the proper machinist skills and technical knowledge for being successful in the business. Workers are no longer merely operators. To be effective in this trade, a new intermingling of skills is required. From programming computers to assembling machines to interacting with clients, machinists can no longer operate in a vacuum; they must acquire skills in the mechanical, technical, analytical, and physical field to be dominant in their industries, but what exactly are employers looking for?


Mechanical Skills: More than Pushing a Button

To be successful in the tool and die industry, employers are calling for skills in the mechanical
field. In order to become a desirable technician, students must first become comfortable dealing with a wide array of machines. By providing a guide to students on the proper handling of appliances, future machinists will be able to tackle different tasks like removing and changing drill bits, as well as setting up unique equipment.

Future machinist employees also need to know how to turn, mill, drill, shape, grind and smooth specific parts. Without knowledge in these basic areas, a machinist wouldn’t
have in-depth insights, like whether to turn or mill a piece—a seemingly trivial decision that could lead to major implications. A student must also possess the skills to cut and shape materials while utilizing tools like a sine bar or a dial indicator to ensure that an alignment is perfect.

By not possessing these fundamental mechanical skills, a piece’s tolerance, appearance, and
functionality will undoubtedly suffer. To be a comprehensive machinist, mechanical skills are just the building blocks for more demanding, yet necessary skill sets.


Let’s Get Technical

According to a study conducted by the Connecticut Business and Industry Association (CBIA), 71% of manufacturers stated that their most recent hires lacked technical skills. So what do these technical skills encompass?

For starters, students should be able to effectively monitor the feed and speed of diverse machines. By having a working knowledge of the types of materials that can be cut at certain rates, a company can save time, as well as money, by avoiding accidental damages to an appliance.

In the same survey by the CBIA, 9 out of 10 manufacturers reported that they were seeking candidates with advanced CNC skills, as well as experience in tolerance and geometric dimensions. In order to do those skills, students need training with CAD and CAM technology, additive manufacturing, and a developed understanding of measuring machines and metalworking processes. Candidates with math, simulation, modeling, analysis, and technical writing skills will also be highly sought after in the job search.

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By acquiring these machinist skills, students should have experience in measuring, examining, and testing completed products for defects. By testing products and manipulating tools like calipers and micrometers, students ensure that tools and dies meet specifications. Students will also have the expertise to develop parts within the millimeter of a design, which is crucial to the functionality of any product.


Thinking Analytically

Possessing mechanical and technical skills are simply not enough anymore in our highly interconnected society. Employers are searching for candidates that can connect dots, investigate problems, and analyze new information. According to the same study by the CBIA mentioned above, 91% of surveyed manufacturers seek technicians with critical thinking and problem-solving skills.

So what do these critical thinking skills look like? To begin with, training with examining blueprints, models, specifications, and sketches are mandatory. By knowing how to appropriately read blueprints, technicians are able to visualize projects and anticipate any steps that must be completed or problems that could be encountered.

Technicians must also be proficient in inspecting CAD and CAM files in order to create distinct tools and dies. By understanding any CAD or CAM files, as well as any manual or guide, machinists can accurately choose the appropriate tools for a job and the speed and feed at which a machine must run.

Lastly, machinists must be able to effectively communicate (through presentations or one-on-one discussions) with clients and other co-workers to perform tasks and implement changes if necessary. Receiving feedback in a positive manner is also critical for the advancement of products and a company’s reputation.

How to be Successful

To excel in the tool and die industry, a technician must have a mixture of machinist skills that encompass mechanical, technical, and analytical abilities. Students hoping to secure a job in this dynamic industry must possess hands-on experience by interacting with machinery as well as textbook knowledge on reading blueprints, figuring equations, and working with CAM and CAD processes. With a field full of jobs for the taking, a technician just needs the correct skills to land the job of their dreams.