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CNC Operator Takes Control of Her Career

October 4, 2022

Upstate mother’s story an inspiration to Skill Up & Move Up

Two years into her career using her Computerized Numerical Control (CNC) Certificate Program credentials, Lynn Rogers is programming her own destiny.

And her story now serves as an example of how Upstate individuals can use the Upstate Alliance’s Skill Up initiative to connect with 15 in-demand occupations accessible through short-term training available through the region’s four technical colleges. 

Since completing the 16-week program at Piedmont Technical College, Lynn has launched a career that includes competitive pay, overtime eligibility, paid holidays and a path for advancement.

“It’s allowed me to provide for my kids what they need and what they want,” she says. “If we want to go somewhere, I can afford to do that – prior to working here, I couldn’t.”

The outlook is bright for the Laurens County native and mother of three who works as a second-shift Broach Operator at automotive manufacturer ZF, located in Gray Court.

“There’s just so much room to grow, it’s unbelievable,” she says, adding her mother once told her, ‘You’re not a tree. You can move.’”

Taking the Leap

For 14 years, Lynn worked at a desk job in medical record keeping, with a 50-minute commute each way.

She wanted to spend more time with her children, shorten her drive, and get into more action, which led her to explore Piedmont Technical College’s short-term training opportunities. And, she had funding support through the SC WINS Scholarship.

Machine tool technology courses led her to the 16-week CNC machining certificate program. At first it seemed like a “crazy move,” though family members urged her to take the leap.

“They told me, ‘Do you know how in demand this is, and how much money there is?’” she says. After evaluating, “It was just a win-win.”

Hands on Learning in 16 Weeks

Over 16 weeks, Lynn attended full-time classes from Monday through Thursday. A blend of classroom and laboratory lessons covered lathes, mills, trigonometry, measurements, and blueprint reading. And courses are offered multiple times per day to appeal to people with a variety of schedules.

She was enrolled alongside several ZF employees who were upping their skills to transition from assembly to machining.

After completing her certificate, Lynn landed a role in ZF’s assembly area. A few months later, a conversation with a Controls Technician altered her journey:

“I told him, ‘I like it, but I’m really ready to put my machining certificate to use.” Within days, she had an interview with the Ring Gears Production Manager.

“When I saw the offer letter, I felt like I had finally made it — my hard work and patience had paid off,” she says. “And I had the credentials to back it up.”

Loving Her Role

Starting her days is a breeze, since a uniform shirt and jeans make it easy to get ready, and work is just a 10 minute drive away.

Once she’s there, it’s a fast-paced process moving products and monitoring broach, washer and hob machines as they fashion automotive transmission rings. In a typical day, Lynn produces 1,080 parts.

“I’m a very tactile person, and machining is so hands on,” she says. The job keeps her on her feet, using analytical skills to ensure the quality of the items moving through her lines and communication skills to collaborate with colleagues.

“I feel pride in my work,” she says. “At the end of the day, our job is to make sure that we machine quality parts.”

Looking to the future

For now, Lynn is settling into her career and enjoying its perks. Motivated to continue providing for her children, she has her eye on a continued path: pursuing an Associates Degree in Mechatronics, with support from ZF’s tuition reimbursement program. That credential would give her the skills to set up machinery, troubleshoot and resolve issues as a Setup Technician.

“There’s just so much room to grow, it’s unbelievable. Once you hit the floor, you’re not just interacting with people in your department. We have a maintenance team, we have our control associates, you interact with the labs,” she says. “The sky’s the limit here.”

15 In-Demand Technical Occupations

Skill Up highlights 15 in-demand technical occupations accessible within 12 months or less of training at Upstate technical colleges, as sorted by NO. of Upstate jobs in 2021:

Occupation Sector Avg. Annual Earnings Upstate Jobs
Machinist (Tool & Die) Manufacturing $39,049 13,286
Commercial Truck Driver Transportation + Logistics $42,404 7,833
Automotive/Diesel Service Technicians & Mechanics Skilled Trades $37,487 6,230
Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) Healthcare $25,500 6,229
Industrial Maintenance Worker Manufacturing $49,738 4,279
Electrician Skilled Trades $47,247 3,319
Welder Skilled Trades $44,521 3,228
Computer Support Specialist IT $49,518 2,984
Software Developer (Programmer) IT $84,232 2,646
Pharmacy Technician Healthcare $33,394 1,913
HVAC Technician Skilled Trades $48,058 1,645
Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) Healthcare $31,627 1,346
Certified Logistics Technician Transportation + Logistics $59,415 1,038
CNC Operator Manufacturing $41,513 697
Cybersecurity & Networking Specialist IT $83,114 406

TOPICS: Skilled Workforce, Workforce Development, Talent