ACTC Machine Tool Program Has a New Name

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

"The new name better reflects what we teach," said Danny Pancake, Associate Professor and Program Coordinator. "It indicates both the type of skills students learn and the types of jobs they can get."

"Machine tool technology is a much needed skill," Pancake said. Almost every industrial product in the world either 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 machine tool technicians.

Computer numerically controlled (CNC) machines are increasingly being used to make the metal parts, although manually operated drills, saws, lathes and mills are still important. Students in the ACTC program learn to use both manual and CNC equipment.

The computer-controlled (CNC) machines have become so complex that using them cannot be learned on the job without adequate educational preparation. Students learn the latest technologies in the laboratory/classroom at the Technology Drive Campus. The state-of-the-art machines range in price from $20,000 to $150,000 each.

"One reason our graduates are hired as soon as they graduate is that they have the background to use expensive equipment effectively and efficiently," Pancake said. "Hands-on training is an essential aspect of the program."

ACTC graduate Michael Paul Mabery is now working as a CNC machinist at McSweeney's Mill and Mine in South Point, OH. A Flatwoods resident and Russell High School graduate, he received his Associate in Applied Science Degree in General Occupational Technical Studies/Machine Tool Technology in December 2011.

Mabery came to ACTC because "I knew I would get the right training and be taught to use the right tools that I needed for a good job." He credits his teachers for helping him get ready for work in the field.

Like many ACTC programs, CMMT appeals to both those preparing for a first job and those starting over.

Student Richard A. Caines, a Catlettsburg resident, has just started work at McSweeneys as a CNC Machinist. After retiring from the Navy in 2006, he wanted to learn skills for a new trade." I moved back to the area to be closer to my children and family, and looked at many fields before deciding on the CNC machinist degree path," he said.

"My instructors have been supportive and have helped me become an honor student," Caines said. He will work around his class schedule until he graduates next May.

Cody A. Stevens, a Flatwoods resident and 2011 Russell High School graduate, wanted to continue his education in order to make a better living in the future. "I chose ACTC because it was close to home, and the tuition was reasonable," he said.

"It was the right choice for me because I'm getting experience using many different types of machines, and I'm getting great instruction in a relaxed learning environment. "After earning an associate degree, he plans to work with his father at Riggs Machine Shop.

Although many jobs involve CNC machines, manually operated tools are still used in some shops.

The ability to use hand operated tools is important to Jeremy K. Phillips in his job as a machinist at Steen Cannons & Ordinance Works in Ashland.

A Catlettsburg resident and 2008 Boyd County High School 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," he said.

He has been working at Steen Cannons while finishing his degree. "This is a unique job where I get to make something that hasn't been made for 150 years. Each piece is hand made from the original specifications."

Steen Cannons is the major supplier of reproduction artillery to the U. S. National Park Service and the U.S. Military. Owner Marshall Steen is a member of the CMMT Advisory Board which helps the program stay current on skills needed by area employers.

Job Outlook

"Good jobs are available in this area for people with machine tool skills," said Danny Pancake, Associate Professor and Program Coordinator.

The increasing number of retiring baby boomers is making a variety of high paying, rewarding jobs available, and the economic downturn has not resulted in cutbacks at area machining companies, according to Pancake. "Even in a slow economy, people need machines."

In addition to McSweeney's and Steen Cannons, Machine Tool graduates have found employment at ESMII, Flowserve Inc. and Riggs Machine Shop in Ashland and Industrial Machine and Fabrication and McCorkle Machine Shops in Huntington, WV,

The mean hourly wage for CNC machinists in the Ashland, Huntington, Ironton metro area is $17.52 according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Our graduates start at about $8 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 be at $20 an hour or more."

"Computerized Manufacturing and Machining is a very rewarding program," said Caines. "Every day you get to design and create something with your own hands that you can use. I'm learning skills to be a CNC machinist/programmer/manual machinist, and I plan to continue building on what I have learned."

"It's good to learn both computer and manual skills because that gives you a lot of job options, for now and in the future," Phillips added.

Spring classes start January 14, but January 7 is the application deadline. Applications are online at ashland.kctcs.edu. For more information on CMMT, contact Professor Pancake, email: danny.pancake@kctcs.edu.