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How Machinists Can Get the Best Jobs Out There

person working on a machine

Every day in machine shops across America, drill presses, lathes and milling machines are cutting and grinding metal into precisely the right shape.

Over the past few decades, machine shops have changed a lot. Machine shops used to be just dark, dirty, loud and unpleasant places. Today many have become clean, well-lit, high-tech workplaces. Machinists get to apply their skills and creativity to exciting projects in almost any industry where precision parts are necessary.

But one thing hasn’t changed at all.

They’re always hiring. There are a ton of job opportunities for machinists.

“Across the industry as a whole, there’s a need for machinists at all levels,” says Derrick DeDeker, a manager of divisional operations at Aerotek.

DeDeker used to be a machinist himself. Now he oversees recruiting efforts across a wide range of manufacturers in Wisconsin. He works closely with Claire Manske, an Aerotek skilled trades account manager. We asked these two experts for advice on how machinists can land the best jobs.

Why become a machinist?

It’s a well-paying career that offers steady employment. Whether you’re working in tool and die, creating custom prototypes or running large-scale manufacturing, machinists with the right experience will be richly rewarded.

“Over the past six months, machining companies are telling me, ‘I will pay whatever I have to pay someone to get them, if they have the experience,’” DeDeker said. “When we submit a candidate, their pay is no longer dictated by a wage scale. Now the answer is usually, ‘Hey, if they have the experience, I’ll pay what they need.’”

Should beginning machinists learn how to operate manual machines or computer numerical control (CNC) machines?

DeDeker advises learning both. The demand for CNC machinists keeps growing, but many shops still use both manual and computerized machining tools.

“The demand is driving the need for people who have the CNC experience,” he said. “In my experience, though, there’s a significant advantage in learning how a manual machine or a milling machine or a lathe works prior to running it in a computer-controlled environment.”

What kind of machinist gets the best  jobs?

“You would have a good work history with consistent employment — five years here, five years there,” Manske said. “The ideal would be if you have both mill and lathe experience and can program the machine from scratch.”

What advice would you give machinists beginning their careers?

DeDeker and Manske offer the same advice: Grab any opportunity you can to learn new skills. The more skills you have, the more valuable you are. If you’re operating a milling machine, pick the brain of the machinist running the lathe next to you.

“The more that you can get exposure to different types of machinery,” DeDeker said, “the more marketability you have.”

“On-the-job training can go a really long way,” Manske said. “If you have the opportunity, learn from people who’ve been in the industry for 30-plus years and have all that knowledge.”

Can job-hopping hurt your career?

Yes and no. It depends on the employer.

“Make sure you’re not consistently job-hopping every year or two, always chasing that buck,” Manske said. Employers don’t like to see that because “they invest time and money to get new hires up-to-date on their machines and programs.”

But because there’s so much demand for experienced machinists, some employers are willing to overlook a bit of job-hopping on your resume.

“Each client is a little bit different. For some, a new job every two years is okay for them,” Manske said. “For others, that’s an absolute deal-breaker, because they won’t want to put the time in to train you only to see you leave.”

If machinists are in such high demand, why partner with a recruiter?

Working with a recruiter who’s plugged into the industry can help your career. Often companies skip posting jobs and turn right to recruiters, so they will likely know about job openings you haven’t heard of.

“There are some companies that aren’t even advertising they’re hiring, because it costs money and they haven’t been seeing a return on it,” Manske said. “We are your way into that company.”

Another reason: Aerotek will help you fine-tune your resume and your interviewing skills. Has it been a while since you updated your resume? No problem. We’ve got you.

Curious about what jobs are out there? Visit our job board to find your next great opportunity.Create a free career account today to customize your search based on your skills and interests. Upload your resume and consider contacting an expert career advisor. Our recruiters are available to provide advice you can use.