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As a CNC machinist, you work with computerized equipment to set up and carry out a production run. You upload programs or write code using computer numeric controlled equipment to create parts in precise shapes and sizes according to blueprints or specifications.
You follow a set of blueprints or plans to cut or shape materials to precise shapes and size such as bolts, tools, pistons or cylinders for other machines, all requiring precision measurements. You’ll produce parts or tools for other machines. You’ll need to be mechanically inclined and have an aptitude for math, computers, and numbers.
As a CNC machinist, you set up and operate a variety of different CNC machines such as drills, grinders, boring mills, and lathes. You work in an industrial setting. As a CNC machinist, you will likely work full-time, though shifts can vary. Production may even be scheduled on weekends to ensure the most productive use of equipment. You may be required to work 8- or 12-hour shifts, and will probably report to a supervisor or plant manager.
Qualified CNC machinist salaries are in the range of $23 to $37 per hour, depending on your experience, skills and location. As an apprentice, you’ll start at a wage lower than a journeyperson, but your pay will increase as you develop your skills and knowledge. Your wages may also be affected by the industry you work in. Wages tend to be higher in the aerospace or automotive industries.
As a CNC machinist, you set up, operate, and maintain a computer numeric controlled machine as part of the manufacturing process. Your job includes:
CNC machinists can work wherever there is manufacturing. Manufacturers of vehicles, auto parts, machinery, equipment, aircraft and steel producers all need qualified CNC machinists. In the last few years, the demand for CNC machinists has grown. Because of their skill in writing computer code, CNC machinists have excellent choices about where to work.
Due to the low Canadian dollar, industry pundits are anticipating growth in the manufacturing sector. Mid-size Ontario cities such as Kitchener, Cambridge, Waterloo, London, St. Catharines and Windsor are experiencing growth with Montréal and Québec City also expecting gains. Opportunities also exist in western Canada in Winnipeg, Saskatoon, Vancouver, and Calgary.
As a CNC machinist, you are a skilled tradesperson who can work independently producing precision work. You’ll need to be physically fit and stand for long periods. In addition, you’ll need the following skills:
To become a CNC machinist, you’ll need your high school diploma. You should also take courses in blueprint reading, metalworking, and drafting. To start your training, you could complete a pre-apprenticeship program at a technical college in one or two years.
To become a fully qualified CNC machinist, you must complete an apprenticeship program, usually taking about 4 years. Your apprenticeship will include a combination of work experience and coursework. Once you have successfully completed your exams and hours of employment, you’ll become a CNC machinist journeyperson.
As a CNC machinist, your job prospects improve if you know how to operate more than one type of machine and know a variety of programming languages. Look for opportunities to use the latest machines such as those with cutters using lasers, water jets, or electrified wires.
Consider learning to use new CAD software or acquiring programming skills. You might learn these on the job, from equipment manufacturer or in your free time. With experience, you can become a quality control inspector or a shop supervisor.