Lincoln Tech has 22 campuses located throughout the United States, and they have been educating tomorrow’s workforce since 1946. Lincoln Tech trains its students to enter the workforce in the automotive, skilled trades, health sciences, culinary, spa and cosmetology, and information technology career fields. They are accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges.
Bob Martin: Tell us a little bit about, we want to talk a little bit about CNC machining careers. You—as one of the leading providers of CNC machining—you are probably the best person for us to be talking to on this particular topic. Let’s start by talking and telling the listener exactly, from your view, what is a CNC machinist and what do they do?
Rob Paganini: That’s not a simple answer. Probably the toughest question I’m going to be asked today! Because the CNC industry is so diverse, a CNC machinist—it’s not just the guy that’s standing at the machine and programming the codes, because a CNC machinist does so much more. I mean, if there’s robotics in a typical CNC place of business, this guy’s maintaining the robotics. He’s programming the robots. There are CNC machinists that are programmers. They are actually going into CAD/CAM software and designing a project off of a set of blueprints. A CNC machinist is dealing with 3D printers. So, there is just a phenomenal amount of background that a CNC machinist is going to need to have in order to go through this field.
Bob: Let me ask a question, then. That’s actually—I appreciate that. So, when you’re—before we get too far into this, so, let’s start with: what are the three or four either personality traits or skills that you think is important for someone that’s looking at a CNC machinist career? I mean, what’s going to make him or her successful and be a good student at Lincoln, that’s going to be able to grab onto it and then move into a good job? What are those three or four things as you see it?
Rob: I always say when people ask me about CNC, I say, “Your limitations in CNC are your imagination.” So, if you want to be successful in CNC, and what we’re looking for in a CNC student is somebody that’s creative, somebody that’s got an open mind, somebody that can say, “I can make it.” We’re looking for fabricators, somebody that is, out of the wildest dreams, “What can we do? What can we make better?” And that’s the creative design or the creative mind, that thought process, that really drives our CNC students.
And you’re going to want to work, because there is a phenomenal demand for my CNC graduates. So, you’re going to want to have an ambition to work because the work’s out there.
Bob: So, it’s not an end, it’s a beginning. Would that be fair to say?
Rob: Oh my god, no, this is just the tip of the iceberg! We’re giving them the basic fundamentals to enter the fields. But this field, I don’t want to say it’s in infant stages, but manufacturing is exploding in America, as we all know. And our students now are grabbing that at the absolute right time, because what we’re hearing from our employers is there is such a demand that if they had the people to fill their vacancies, they could increase production by 20–30%.
Lee Doubleday: Wow, okay. Yeah, that comes into my next question here, which is what does the career outlook like for CNC machining, and what’s the national average salary that a CNC machinist can expect to make in a year? I know it probably differs depending on where they live.
Rob: Yeah. And the problem with this question also is that there is, if you look it up on the BLS website, it comes up as a tool and die maker. And our CNC machinists are so much more than a tool and die maker. And the definition of a CNC operator, that’s not even accurate because when it’s broken down on these websites into multiple facets as to what encompasses what a CNC machinist does. So, I mean, right now, there’s about 500,000 machinists working in the field, there’s steady growth projected over the next 10 years, and in our tri-state area they’re expecting a job growth of nearly 9%. And I would say that’s extremely conservative because what we’re seeing at the campus is far more than that. I mean, I can honestly say that I have more employers asking for my students than I have students to give them, which is a nice problem to have.
Lee: Yeah, no doubt about it. So with CNC machining being in such high demand, it seems like this would obviously be something worth getting an education in. Should someone go back to school or go to school to learn how to become a CNC machinist? And what does a typical program include? I know you mentioned earlier: blueprint reading, the CAM software, etc. And how long does a CNC program typically take? I know, that was a kind of a loaded question.
Rob: No, actually, it’s a great question because that’s what everybody wants to know. Do we need the school or can I just jump into a CNC shop?
What we’ve been seeing is—our training is an 11-month program, okay, and we include advanced manufacturing with robotics. So we have robots as part of our CNC program as well. And what we’re going to go through, yeah, we go through the CAD/CAM software, that’s Mastercam. We go through precision measuring tools—and we do it in a way that has the student enjoying doing math. There’s actually components of calculus in our advanced manufacturing robotics program, but the students don’t know it and we won’t ever tell them because they’ll go running for the door. But it is that far advanced. And when we send our students out into the field, since there is such a demand, a lot of times the employers don’t want to take somebody that knows absolutely nothing about G-Code, absolutely nothing about M-Code.
Our students can walk into a shop, set up a machine, and get it going. Now again, they’re entry-level guys, but they are going to advance through the ranks a whole lot quicker than somebody coming off the street—and that obviously equivocates to, hopefully, their pay is going to advance substantially as well.
Bob: We’re talking to Rob Paganini with Lincoln Tech in Mahwah. We’re talking about CNC careers, machining careers. Okay, I’m going to put this out to you. Imagine now, I’m a student, okay, and I’m thinking about—I really want it. You got me jacked up, I’m ready to look at a school, or if I’m ready to look at this career, what should I be looking for in schools? Lincoln, although, they’re very fantastic, there might be some other guys out there. All right, there might be some other options. What should I look at? What’s the bare minimum that I should have expect to see, or want to see, in a school when I’m walking through to make my decision to come to that particular school? In this case, Lincoln Tech Mahwah.
Rob: So the first thing I would say is that in any school that you are going to go look at, you want to make sure that that school is nationally accredited. So we are accredited by ACCSC. They oversee what we do. We’re also programmatically accredited. Our CNC program is programmatically accredited by NIMS. Now, NIMS is the industry standard for certifications for CNC. So immediately upon you coming into our program, you have the ability to get a minimum of four NIMS certifications, which are recognized immediately by the industry. So that’s very important. You want to make sure that our curriculum is designed for the industry.
So if you’re looking at a school: accreditation, programmatic accreditation, and then the next thing is the equipment. Is the equipment that we’re utilizing, is that what’s used in the field? So at Lincoln Tech, we use Haas—only. We are what Haas calls an HTEC center; it’s a Haas Technical Education Center. We are certified by Haas manufacturing to train on their equipment. Haas is the largest CNC manufacturer in the world, so if you train on my machines, there’s a real good chance that when you went into the workforce, you’re going to be working on a Haas machine. The other great thing about Haas machines is the programs: The controllers that are on the machines? They’re all the same. So regardless of what machine you’re using, whether you’re using one of their most advanced machines to one of their basic lathes, they all have the same controller. So once you learn that controller, you can walk through to different machines and it makes it a whole lot easier.
And then, obviously, reputation. Lincoln Tech has been around since 1946. We have a great reputation of defining the field with entry-level tech. So if you’re looking for a school, you want to make sure that they know what they’re doing. And we have the proven track record that proves that.
Bob: I’ve jotted down four points, which is absolutely critical. Now our audience—Rob, just to go over these—are guidance counselors, parents, possibly students. So what I’m hearing you say is for those particular students thinking about CNC machining:
Make sure that you’re looking at a school that is nationally accredited, programmatically accredited, has up-to-date modern equipment, industry certifications, and—you mentioned, I believe it was Haas, I might be wrong—got good jobs at the end of it, and then, the school itself has a very good reputation. It’s been around a long time. It’s not a fly by night. We’re going to be there tomorrow. Right? That’d be fair?
Rob: 100%. Because, again, our job is to get these students placed in the field. That’s the whole basis of what we do on a daily basis, is to make sure our students are ready to hit the workforce. So we need to have a reputable school that’s going to have those contacts with the industry to help you get to that next step.
Bob: Well, we really appreciate your time, Rob. It’s really been great. We’ve had a great conversation with Rob Paganini with Lincoln Tech in Mahwah, New Jersey. Anyone who’s interested in looking at CNC machining careers needs to look no further than to go to Imagine America Radio, click on the CNC Imagine America podcast, focusing on Rob. In the meantime, Rob, if someone look at Mahwah, how should they contact you?
Rob: So the best way is they can contact me directly through email. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org. Or they could call our campus direct. Our number is 201-529-1414.
Bob: Hey Rob, I hope they blow up your email. Thank you very much. We really do appreciate it, and spending the time with us today. Thank you. This is Bob Martin and Lee Doubleday with Imagine America Radio.
This concludes our discussion with Rob Paganini with Lincoln Tech. Thank you very much.