Akron’s CNC Training Center Opens Doors to Machinist Industry Jobs

Mackenzee Slatten had good timing.

The 22-year-old Barberton resident entered cosmetology school in 2019, became a hairstylist and got a job at an Akron-area salon. Then, just a few months ago, Laurie Norval, founder and director of the Akron CNC Training Center on Brittain Road in Tallmadge, walked into the salon and became his client.

They talked while Slatten worked on Norval’s hair. At the end of the session, Norval had a new hairstyle. And Slatten began a new career path that held the promise of better pay and benefits.

“[Norval] told me about school,” Slatten said. “I thought about it and took the plunge.”

Barberton resident Mackenzee Slatten, 22, worked as a cosmetologist and is now going to school to become a machinist.

She spoke with her boyfriend and her father, both stagehands. Next, Slatten enrolled in the Akron CNC Training Center. It will soon join the industry of manufacturing parts and tools from solid metal parts using sophisticated computer numerical control, or CNC, technology. Machinists, or operators, program specialized machines to cut and shape steel, titanium and other metals into precise shapes.

The CNC training program lasts four months

The training center is trying to produce enough graduates through its four-month programs to meet the strong local demand for machinists and tool and die makers, Norval said. She estimates that there are about 1,100 CNC machine shops within an hour’s drive of the school. The school itself is located in a large machine shop, Lehner Screw Machine, owned by subcontractor OGS Industrieson the Akron-Tallmadge line.

The school aims to teach people the basics so they can get their first skilled labor job in the industry, Norval said. Most students live in the Greater Akron area.

Akron CNC Training Center Manager Laurie Norval looks inside a CNC machine at the Tallmadge Training Center.

“More and more companies have us train their employees,” she said. “They can’t find workers. I say, do you have someone who shows up who has a good work ethic? … Why not train the [entry level] which ones do you have?”

Machine shops, considered essential businesses, have never stopped operating during the COVID-19 pandemic, Norval said. But machine shops that often deal with an aging workforce also struggle to find new employees, she said.

“It’s a massive struggle,” Norval said.

No experience necessary to attend Akron’s CNC Training Center

Akron’s CNC Training Center, a partner of the Cleveland Industrial Training Center, is dedicated to training people with little or no machine shop experience. Norval and his machinist business owner father, Lee Combs, founded the Summit County School about 15 years ago.

Students have the option of taking morning classes from 8 a.m. to noon or evening classes from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., Monday through Thursday. The cost is $5,400, and many people qualify for federal and state job training funds. Some charge their employers for the program, Norval said. There are usually 20 students between day and evening classes, she said.

“We have over 1,000 graduates” over a 15-year period, Norval said. Students come with all kinds of backgrounds, she says. She recalled that one person was an accountant, others aged 50 and over seeking retraining. Young people like Mackenzee Slatten who work in the service industry often find that being a machinist makes more money and offers more benefits than their initial career path, she said.

Another current student, Girard resident Amie Altaffer, joined an Akron-area machine shop just over a year ago as a driver.

Amie Altaffer shares how she enrolled at the Akron CNC Training Center in Tallmadge.  Altaffa, who is a delivery driver for Nemes Machine in Akron, was sponsored by his company to learn how to use a CNC machine.

“It’s a small store,” Altaffer said. “I had no idea what a machine shop did.”

But she learned. And then the workshop management wanted to know if she was interested in becoming a machinist. She said yes and enrolled in school with her employer as a sponsor.

Classroom and practical experience

Students spend time in the classroom learning the basics, including math, machine tool safety, quality control, and computer-aided design and manufacturing, and have lab days where they learn how to use the type of machines they will eventually work on, Norval said. Graduates come out with basic skills and then gain on-the-job experience and training with their employers, she said.

“We have always formed [current] employees,” Norval said. With machine shops struggling to find new workers, there was an increase last year with the enrollment of non-machinist employees in the school, she said.

Demand for machinists and tool and die makers is expected to remain strong, according to projections by the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics. In 2020, last year’s figures were available, there were 425,300 jobs in the country, with a projected job growth of 7% per year until 2020.

Industry jobs generally pay well. The national median salary in 2020 was $47,040 per year, or nearly $23 per hour.

The salary can reach $60,000 in a short time

It’s not uncommon for a local CNC operator with four years of experience to earn $60,000 a year — more with overtime, said Chris Conrad, manager of the OGS plant where the CNC school is located. (Conrad is also an instructor at the school.) New grads will typically start at $20 an hour, he said, and work on machines that cost between $100,000 and more than $1 million. , did he declare.

“You have a good job forever,” he said. “This demand will increase.”

The demand is definitely there at the OGS/Lehner Screw factory, he said.

“I have eight plants on the ground with three guys,” Conrad said. “I need more people.”

The company’s goal is to become the first store of its kind in the region, serving a wide range of industries, from aerospace to military to automotive and more, he said. he declares. To do this, they have upgraded to the latest CNC machines available. But they still need more staff to run them, he said.

Ideally, they would have one person per machine, Conrad said.

“Everyone is looking for people,” he said.

Tom Bader, vice president of family-owned company OGS Industries, also acknowledged the recruitment crisis. OGS has grown, bought and combined businesses, he said. (OGS started 60 years ago as a much smaller company, Ohio Gasket and Shim Co.)

“I definitely have more machinery than labor,” Bader said. “If you were smart, you’d get into tool and die making.”

OGS has a great relationship with the Akron CNC School, he said.

“She will be training some of our rookie employees,” Bader said. “It works very well.”

Akron’s CNC Training Center is a “launch pad”

Norval said working in the machining industry has advantages over other jobs in the industry. Compared to some service jobs, people in the machinist trade are treated with more respect and enjoy better benefits, including pension plans, she said.

“It’s a lifetime skill. It’s year-round, it’s not seasonal,” Norval said. “It’s a very well paid job. These are sustainable jobs for everyone.”

Akron CNC is not a “master’s degree,” Norval said. “It’s a launching pad.”

Beacon Journal reporter Jim Mackinnon can be reached at 330-996-3544 or [email protected]. Follow him @JimMackinnonABJ on Twitter or www.facebook.com/JimMackinnonABJ.

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