|Years in Field:
||Computer Numeric Controls Machinist Certificate
"I'm the only woman in the course but it hasn't been
a problem." In fact, she says, their instructor told them
at the beginning that women tend to pick up these machine
skills "right off the bat," Traci says. "And I think it's
Starting Salary: An unskilled worker without experience
will start around $8/hr. Within a year - "if you're in
it and you learn" - a machinist can earn $35-40,000.
Top Salary: In two years a skilled computer numeric
controls machinist will be earning $50,000 and up.
Getting Started: Traci says she'd spent enough
time in low paying jobs to know that she wanted a change
in her life. "I was doing fast food for a while," which
she says was "the worst … when you come home upset
every day." She spent two years working as an office manager
in her father's company, but decided that "I really needed
something I could grow more with. I had pretty much reached
the top of where I could be there." On her mother's advice,
she decided to check out some of the technical programs
at North Harris College.
Education: Traci attended the University of North
Texas for two years, taking general courses, but still
wasn't sure what she wanted to do. She left school to
start work for a couple of years, but was frustrated by
the low wages and lack of growth opportunities. Her mother,
who's a nursing instructor at North Harris, suggested
Traci take a look at some of the programs. When she heard
about the Machining Technology program - which required
only six courses to learn a valuable skill - she signed
up and started classes in January 2001.
Greatest Professional Achievement: "For me," Traci
says, "it's just great to feel that I have something I
can grow with. No matter where I go, I've learned a skill
I can start working with right away."
Barriers: Traci hasn't encountered any barriers
in her 8 months in the CNC program.
No matter what level she was working at, Dara tried to
stay open to what she might learn - to ask questions,
and demonstrate her interest in finding out more. "Take
every experience as a learning opportunity," she advises.
"Try to learn from other people, and use these lessons
in your own career."
Working with Men: "I'm the only woman in the course,"
Traci says, "but it hasn't been a problem." In fact, she
says, their instructor told them at the beginning that
women tend to pick up these machine skills "right off
the bat," Traci says. "And I think it's true."
She also says she's found the faculty at North Harris
"very helpful," and approachable with any questions or
Advice for Women: "I think this course would be
good for a lot of people," she says. "Especially for women
who might be stuck in low-paying, or minimum wage type
of jobs. It's a fairly short course and it's very worthwhile."
Her own experience taught her that everyday job satisfaction
was important for Traci. "I like working with my hands,"
she says. "And it's really nice to be able to go into
a so-called man's job and do it well."
Typical Workday/Environment: As a CNC machinist,
Traci works on producing parts for a variety of applications
- "for example, almost anything under the hood of your
car has been made like this," she says. The precision
of the CNC technology makes it possible to calculate within
one ten-thousandth of an inch the measurements of a particular
part. Her job involves taking exact measurement of various
parts, placing them into machines and 'telling' each part
- through the computer numeric controls - where it needs
to go next.
Career Ladder: For Traci, one of the most appealing
things about the CNC Machining Course was its relatively
quick path to gaining skills and employment opportunities.
In terms of skills and salary, for many people, "it's
an automatic jump up."
Even with only the basic, early coursework under her belt,
Traci says she had little difficulty starting her hands-on
work in the co-op position with HMP. "It's really easy
to pick up, once you've got that," she says. An unskilled
worker without experience will start around $8 an hour,
but once in the field for a year or so, can be earning
$35-40,000. And a good, skilled machinist can be earning
$50,000 after two years in the field, which makes the
two-semester program seem a very worthwhile investment.
Professional Associations: None.
Hobbies: When she's not at work or school, Traci
likes to work on old cars, practices Tae Kwan Do, and
collects vintage Coca-Cola memorabilia.
*Annual salary number is not the role model's actual salary. Salary for Machinist based on the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2008-09 Edition