Machine Tool Program Has New Name

Computerized Manufacturing and Machining (CMM) is a new name for the Machine Tool Program at Ashland Community and Technical College.  

“The program gives students the ‘tools’ they need to get in-demand, good-paying jobs in the area,” said Danny Pancake, Associate Professor and program coordinator. “The new name reflects the additional technologies that have transformed the field.”

CMM occupations are involved in producing more than 50% of the gross national product according to the U. S. Department of Labor. It is estimated that about 30% of the skilled machinists and 70% of all tool and die makers in North America will retire within the next 3 to 5 years.  And that means jobs that need filling.

The economic downturn has not resulted in cutbacks at area machining companies, according to Pancake.  “Even in a slow economy, people need machinists.”

Machine Tool graduates have found employment at ESMII, Flowserve Inc. and Riggs Machine Shop in Ashland, Industrial Machine and Fabrication Inc. and McCorkle Machine Shops in Huntington, WV; Steel of West Virginia; Motor Parts in Ironton, WV; and McSweeny’s Mill and Mine in South Point, OH.

The median wage for machinists in the Ashland, Huntington, Ironton metro area is $19.81 according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.  “Our graduates start at about 10 to $12 an hour, but after a year or two, they’ll get $12 to $15 an hour,” said Pancake. “In five to ten years, they could earn over $20 an hour.”

What is CMM?

Almost every industrial product in the world contains metal parts or is manufactured by machines made of metal parts - from jet engines to guitars to washing machines. Making these parts is the work of CMM technicians.

Computer-controlled (CNC) machines have become so complex that using them cannot be learned on the job without adequate educational preparation,” Pancake said.

"Our students learn to make and repair parts on state-of-the-art CNC machines that range in price from $20,000 to $150,000 or more each. One reason our students are hired as soon as they graduate is that they have the background to use expensive equipment effectively and efficiently," Pancake added.

Although parts are increasingly being made with CNC machines, manually operated saws, drills, lathes and mills are still important machine tools. Students in the ACTC program learn basic skills for operating both types of equipment.

“I use both manual and CNC machines in my job now, so it was good to have the background in both areas.” said Raceland resident Travis Howell, a machinist at McCorkle’s Machine Shop. He graduated from ACTC in 2008 with Machinist and CNC Machinist Diplomas as well as three Machine Tool certificates.

 “I wasn’t sure what the program would be like when I started, but there was a lot of hands-on learning and I liked it,” Howell said.  “I really like what I do on the job.  I work on something different everyday, so it stays interesting.” 

The manual skills have been useful for Jeremy K. Phillips in his job as a machinist at Steen Cannons & Ordinance Works in Ashland.   A Catlettsburg resident and 2013 ACTC graduate, Phillips came to college to get skills for a good job.  He had not worked with machine tools before but it seemed interesting.

 “It’s pretty cool to be able to make basically anything you can think of,” Phillips said.  “This is a unique job where I get to make something that hasn’t been made for 150 years.”

For specialized skills, students can choose a CNC Machinist Apprentice or Machine Shop Apprentice diploma or a certificate in Exploratory Machining, Machine Operator I or Machine Operator II.

By adding specified general education courses to the machine tool technical courses, students also have the option of earning an Associate of Applied Science (AAS) Degree in General Occupational Technical Studies.

“It’s a great program,” said Larry D. Boley, an Ashland resident and 1998 ACTC machine tool graduate.  “You get the basic knowledge and hands-on training you need to get started in the field. You have to work to learn the technology, but it’s not hard if you’re interested in machines.”

A member of the Machine Tool Advisory Committee, Boley is a seal technician at Flowserve, using many of the skills such as blue print reading and measuring instruments that he learned in the program. “I would highly recommend this program to anyone who is starting out or starting over,” he said.  “There will always be a need for machinists.”

"We are looking for students who really enjoy making things and take pride in what they do," Pancake said.  "Success in the field requires a desire to work with your hands, moderate math skills, the ability to communicate and good hand-eye coordination."

December 30 is the application deadline for spring classes, and applications are online at: ashland.kctcs.edu. For more information on CMM, contact Professor Pancake at 606-326-2471 or 800-928-4256 ext. 62471 or email: danny.pancake@kctcs.edu.