Machinist: A trade in demand
Sue LeFort is a Business Development Officer, Aerospace, Defence & Marine, with Innovation PEI. She is also a Red Seal Machinist.
After completing high school, she got into a program called Katimavik, which offers opportunities for young adults to gain life skills and work experience through volunteering.
“After a year of travelling across Canada with the program, I still had not chosen a career,” says Sue.
“I went for career counselling and did aptitude testing, where I scored very high for working in the trades. Welding seemed interesting, so I took the nine-month night program. I had an opportunity to branch out into the machinist trade. That is where I got my start. I was hired a week before I finished the program.
“I worked as a machinist for the same company for 25 years. I started out on the shop floor, and eventually moved to all areas of the shop, including tool room, inspection, CNC operator, setter, and some programming.
“I went to night school to upgrade my high school math skills, and eventually became a lead programmer at the shop. We worked on projects requiring a high degree of skill, for example aircraft engine parts and components for the international space station. To be a machinist, you need good critical thinking skills, math skills, and manual dexterity.”
Sue went on to a position as manager of the provincial Apprenticeship program. “It was a great opportunity to align my technical and industry background to support the growth of skilled local trade and technology on PEI.
“I worked with groups targeting under-represented people and encouraged training and trade certification as a viable career opportunity.”
In her present job, she works with employers in the Aerospace, Defence and Marine industry, which employs machinists.
“In this trade, there is an opportunity to go from the shop floor all the way to senior management. Take a tour of the local precision machinist program, talk with the instructor, and check out machine shops to see if this career path may be a good fit for you.
“It’s a trade that will continue to grow. Holland College says that well over 90 percent of Holland College precision machinist students are hired as soon as they graduate.
“I have been told the starting wage for a machinist graduating from the nine-month program is between $2 and $5 an hour above minimum wage. Also, there are monetary incentives through the Federal government to support people to attain a Certificate of Qualification with Red Seal endorsement.”
For more information about the Precision Machinist program, visit www.hollandcollege.com/programs/precision-machinist.