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Machine Shop Technology - Overview


Programs in machine shop technology prepare people to make and modify metal parts. Students learn how to use machines to make various parts for the repair, design, or manufacture of other products.

Have you ever toured a candy manufacturing plant? It's amazing to see all those different machines churn, mix, and pump chocolate, sugar, and butter ingredients into a finished candy treat. Machines even put candy bars in their wrappers and stack them in boxes! The whole process is seamless and smooth.

Yet, what happens if one of those machines breaks down? If one machine breaks down, the assembly process is disrupted. Enter machinists and other machine shop technicians. They save the day for us candy lovers by fixing the machines. Often they do this by making a new part or reconfiguring the machine.

Machinists don't just work in candy factories. Most jobs are in manufacturing settings, in a variety of industries, including aerospace, medical, and paper, to name a few. In this field, you use math, computer, and engineering skills, yet you also use your creative side to solve problems and make new designs. You work with your hands to create, put together, and fix tools and machines. You work on parts that are cast, formed, shaped, or molded. You can also work on parts that are heat treated, cut, or twisted. In addition, you can work on parts that are pressed, fused, stamped, or worked. (Whew!)

A degree in machine shop technology trains you for entry-level work as a machinist or instrument maker. You can also work as a set-up technician, maintenance mechanic, or machine operator. In addition, you can work as a shop supervisor, inspector, or material tester.

In machine shop technology programs, you learn how to use hand tools, power machinery, and computerized equipment. You learn how to use lathes and mills. You learn welding techniques and how to make, assemble, and maintain different machine parts. You learn about shop safety and how to operate and inspect different instruments. You study how to install, maintain, and fix manufacturing equipment. You can also learn about mechanical drive systems, pipefitting techniques, and hydraulics. Some programs also teach students how to use computer-aided-drafting and design software. Most instruction takes place in the shop, and involves much hands-on, practical experience.

Many private vocational schools and community colleges offer short programs in machine shop technology. Many community colleges also offer one-year certificate and two-year associate degree programs. Some high schools coordinate vocational programs with community colleges. This allows high school students to take machine shop technology courses before they graduate. In some cases, they are prepared for entry-level work as machinists after they receive their high school diploma.

Source: Illinois Career Information System (CIS) brought to you by Illinois Department of Employment Security.
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