Jobs abound for machinists in SWFL

Students practicing on a CNC mill. (Submitted photo)

When you think of southwest Florida, what comes to mind? Sun, pristine beaches, beautiful sunsets, manufacturing. Manufacturing? Did you know that manufacturing is one of the fastest growing industries in the area? Because of the area’s expanding manufacturing, one of the fastest growing careers in southwest Florida is machining technology. It is estimated that in the next few years, Florida’s manufacturing industry will need 414 machinists to keep those factories running. Where does one find machinists to fill these jobs? Immokalee Technical College. Second semester machining student Julio Bustamante, anticipating to fill one of those jobs, says, “There are a lot of jobs, a lot of career opportunities. Every day is challenging. It’s fun to be challenged.”

“In 2010,” reflects Mr. Dorin Oxender, iTECH Director, “I was approached by a local major manufacturing company wanting me to start a machinist class at the newly opened iTECH. That encounter evolved into a two year needs assessment study and an advisory board consisting of potential employers along with the Workforce Development Board. With assistance from Arthrex, Shaw Development, and US Sugar, the Machining Technology Program opened in 2013.”

A machinist is a skilled technician who, after one and a half years of technical training, is able to operate a machine to manufacture literally any item that can be produced in a factory. Student Joe Demeo boasts, “I can make all kinds of awesome stuff. I like machining because if you think of something you want to make, you can go in the shop and make it.”

Students begin their training by enhancing their basic math skills since machinists must measure to .0001 preciseness. They learn blueprint reading and basic machine technology. The next step is to master manual milling machines to create parts with straight edges and manual turning machines to make round parts. Students are then taught to write numerical code to operate Computer Numerical Code (CNC) machines. National Institute for Metalworking Skills (NIMS) certificates for different levels of machining can be earned to add to one’s marketability.

The instructor for the Machining Technologies Program, Mr. Ross Porter, brings over 30 years of experience to the program and comes from a long line of machinists. His grandfather, father, and uncles were machinists. “For everything that is manufactured, machining is involved one way or another. When you’re a machinist, doors open up. It’s wider than other fields. You can go into engineering, CNC programming, selling CNC machines, machine repair.” Mr. Porter adds, “Companies contact me all the time wanting to hire iTECH students. We need more students in the program to keep up with the demand for machinists.”

Student Ben Fitts remembers, “When I was younger, they called me ‘ingenuity kid.’ I would make anything out of anything. As a machinist, I will be able to make whatever I want out of whatever I want. My goal is to specialize in prosthetics.”

Training to be a machinist is your ticket to a high wage, high demand career with unlimited opportunities. Call iTECH at 239-377-9900 or stop in today and ask to speak to an advisor.

The Immokalee Bulletin is published every Thursday.

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