CNC Training: Thinking Outside the Box for Better Results

CNC Training - Gateway's CNC Boot Camp
Photo Courtesy: Greg Lebrick, Gateway Technical College

Anyone within earshot of a machine shop, these days, knows that there’s one major, industry-wide challenge: filling skilled labor positions. At Swiss-Tech, we’re taking a proactive approach to solving this dilemma by partnering with Gateway Technical College for CNC training.

Finding Skilled Workers in a Tight Labor Market

One of the most interesting aspects of our workforce is that qualified CNC machinists are nearly all employed, which makes recruiting and hiring young talent very competitive.

What happens when things get competitive? Workers have the advantage of being selective, naturally gravitating toward the highest paying position. This phenomenon gave us reason to evaluate our team’s wages and find ways to improve benefit packages, as well.

Another side-effect of a competitive labor market is diminishing employee longevity. Experienced workers often view the opportunity for advancement as elsewhere, which can result in training gaps. Being a producer of precision CNC-machined components for mission critical applications, we took this threat very seriously.

Fortunately for Swiss-Tech, we haven’t experienced this in great numbers but decided to take preventative measures nonetheless. By being proactive, we’re ensuring that our relentless standard of quality continues to deliver industry-leading results for our customers.

Thinking “Outside-the-Box” | Our Partnership with Gateway Technical College

Our quest for a training solution led us to Neil Petersen, CNC Boot Camp Instructor at Gateway Technical College. As part of the Business Workforce Solutions team at Gateway, Neil and his colleagues have developed one of the most innovative and successful CNC training programs in the country. 

With over 30 years of experience in machine shops, Petersen now applies his wealth of industry and technical knowledge to the next wave of workers. “The shops made me who I am,” Petersen said, “but Gateway offered me the opportunity to pay my expertise forward – it’s a dream job.”

Gateway Technical College pioneered skilled labor training regimens, known as CNC Boot Camp courses, for adults and high school students. These 14-week programs provide a rigorous curriculum that quickly and effectively prepare you for the workforce.

Gateway also works directly with employers to identify gaps in skilled labor and customize sessions to address them. When our executive team at Swiss-Tech heard about this service, we were intrigued, so we gave them a call.

“Gateway’s partnership was exactly what we were looking for,” CEO & President, Frank Meiland said. “We were excited to get them in the building, so we could begin not only attracting top talent but also providing development opportunities for our current team.”

CNC Training at Swiss-Tech

CNC Training at Swiss-Tech 

Our Director of Engineering and Support Technology, Jason Price, worked alongside Neil Petersen to design an employee assessment and determine a baseline for our training deficit. This was distributed among our CNC Machinists, who gave terrific feedback on what they wanted/needed to learn.

The next step was to analyze the results in order to identify essential areas of improvement. Upon doing this, we were able to custom-build a program that focused on:

  • Geometric Dimensioning & Tolerancing (GD&T)
  • Gauging & Gauge Etiquette
  • Blueprint Reading

Once the subject matter was finalized, we hired Neil to hold several 4-hour sessions to help fill in our team’s knowledge gaps. Each session consisted of 25-30 students with total attendance being approximately 60 CNC workers.

“Sometimes, you go to do a training and get kind of a deer in headlights look, but that wasn’t the case with the Swiss-Tech team.” Petersen commented, “They were all very engaged. They asked and answered questions. Overall, I was very impressed with the group’s participation.”

At Swiss-Tech, we’re thrilled with this partnership. It allows us the opportunity to improve our CNC training methods and continue to challenge our employees in their development. We’re thinking outside the box to push our expertise to new heights and paving the way toward continuous growth for our staff.

Gateway Technical College offers CNC Bootcamp Courses
Photo Courtesy: Neil Petersen, Gateway Technical College

Ongoing Training Through Gateway

Speaking of growth, Swiss-Tech’s executive staff continues to brainstorm ways to utilize Gateway’s CNC training programs to strengthen our technical acumen.

Karen Ozanich, our Director of Manufacturing and Logistics, has been busy working on an ongoing schedule to sharpen our machinists’ skills. These include topics, such as:

  • Reading and Understanding Machine Screens
  • Reading Both Manual & Digital Micrometers
  • Starrett Certifications

This is, by no means, an exhaustive list, and we’re excited about the direction Swiss-Tech is heading with Gateway’s assistance. We’re able to effectively hire young talent and incorporate their programs into our onboarding process.

“Our instruction isn’t all about gauging and blueprint reading, either,” Petersen mentioned. “We also focus on soft skills – how to be a professional, what it’s like to work in a shop, what to do/what not to do. We want our students to be well-rounded employees, so they will be as prepared for their future career as possible.”

CNC Training Partnership - a proactive approach
Photo Courtesy: Greg Lebrick, Gateway Technical College

In Summary: A Proactive Approach Pays Off

As Vince Lombardi said, “If you are five minutes early, then you are already ten minutes late.”

At Swiss-Tech, quality is not just what we accomplish; it’s who we are. When faced with the industry-wide challenge of a skilled labor shortage, we discovered a solution that’s revolutionized our training processes and enhanced our expertise along the way.

That’s a triumph in our book.

“It’s been great working with Swiss-Tech. Their leadership is very proactive and open to suggestions. Their goals are built around investing in their long-term success, not just throwing together a quick fix. It’s very rare to find that in my experience.” – Neil Petersen, CNC Boot Camp Instructor for Gateway Technical College

Interested in learning more about our CNC training process? Feel free to reach out online, or give us a call at 262-728-6363.

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