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I entered the Machinist Trade in January of 1995, when I was hired at Advanced Machine & Engineering, Inc., in Rockford, Illinois, as a CNC Lathe trainee. I was working on the night shift. By May it was very apparent to me that the worker who ran my machine on days, (a Mazak Quick Turn 35), was not planning on leaving the company anytime soon. That meant I could plan on spending the next several years living "The Vampire's Life", sleeping during the day and working all night. Some guys love working the night shift, preferring it to working days; not as many "Suits" they told me. Not me, I figured I had been trained all my life to do my work during the day and sleep at night. This night stuff might be alright for a year or two, but I couldn't see it for the long haul.
In mid-May 1995, I had seen an advertisement by the RTMA, in the Rockford Register Star, promoting the Machinist Apprenticeship entrance examination. I figured that if I could get into the Apprenticeship, I would be able to train on all the machines in the entire shop. Better yet, that would mean training on the day shift. I called the number in the ad, spoke with Ken Barton and got on the list to take the exam. Out of four tests, covering Reading, Vocabulary, Mathematics, and Engineering/Spatial Relationships, you needed a total score of 16 to pass. I scored a total of 30 points. I was in the door!
Having passed the test, I then approached Mr. Dietmar Goellner, (now President of Advanced Machine, Inc.), and requested that they sponsor me in my Apprenticeship. Advanced Machine has been sponsoring Apprentices for several years, and is probably the best training ground in all of Rockford to learn the Machinist Trade and have as the sponsor of your Apprenticeship. They are a state-of-the-art shop, and have an excellent training program. To this day, five years later, I still remember Mr. Goellner's answer, "Sure! What ever will make your stay at Advanced Machine more enjoyable". I was in the Apprenticeship!
Due to the fact that I had already taken several math classes during my years at Illinois State University, (including College Algebra, Finite Mathematics, Trigonometry, and Calculus), I was able to transfer my grades from ISU and bypass the Apprenticeship's basic math classes, and start in the second year of the program. My one resolve at the start of the program was to study hard and graduate with a 4.0 Grade Point Average. To make a long story short, several hundred hours worth of classes, and 8,000 hours worth of on-the-job training later, I graduated with a 4.0 GPA, at the top of my class, from the RTMA Precision Machinist Apprenticeship in June 1998.
My graduation from the RTMA program in June was not the end of my on-the-job training however. In order for me to fulfill the requirements of my Apprenticeship contract with the United State Department of Labor, I still had to complete some additional hours in the "Grinding" category. I spent the next two months worth of Monday nights fulfilling my Grinding hours, while "setting-up, programming, and operating" CNC Lathes the other nights of the week. Finally, in late August 1998, I had completed all the requirements for my USDL Precision Machinist Certification! I now had two highly respected forms of Journeyman certification that would enable me to get a job anywhere in the United States!
Life doesn't always take you to the destination you thought your journey was taking you to though. What "shop" am I working in now? I'm not. I am back in school at Rock Valley College working toward an Associate in Applied Sciences degree as a "Personal Computer Technical Specialist".
A Bachelor of Science degree in Marketing... a Journeyman Certification as a Precision Machinist... and going for an Associate in Applied Sciences degree as a Personal Computer Technical Specialist. A poker player might look at a hand like that and think I was going for a "Full House". No, I am just doing what I have been considering doing for a long time, getting a computer degree.
A voice from the past, I can still remember my Mother telling me several years ago, "You ought to get a degree in computers. Computers are going to be big some day." I told her, "Computer guys are Geeks!" So... call me a "Geek". Mothers are always right.
In the mean while... anybody looking for a Marketing... Manufacturing... Computer... Web Site Consultant? Call me.