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Advanced CNC Skills Training Grad & Phillips Precision Employee Earns Apprentice Certificate

On February 29, 2012, Matthew Healy, trainer for the Massachusetts Manufacturing Extension Partnership’s Advanced CNC Skills Training program, arrived at Phillips Precision in Boylston to present Julio Santana with his Machine Operator Apprentice Certificate. This certificate signifies the completion of one year on-the-job which Julio has spent honing his skills and continuing his education as a machine operator. It also signifies his successful transition to a new career.

Just over a year ago, Julio Santana lost his job. Not one to sit idle, the father of two was at the Career Center trying to determine his next steps when he learned that there were seats available in MassMEP’s Advanced CNC Skills Training program, which prepares participants for entry- and mid-level machine operator positions. Having some machine programming in his past, Julio was eager to learn more about the program. He took basic skills and aptitude tests which indicated that he would be a great candidate for the Advanced CNC Skills Training and earned a place in the class of twelve.
Matthew Healy(R), Advanced CNC Skills Program Trainer, presents Julio with his Apprentice Certificate on the floor of Phillips Precision.

Students began the rigorous seven week program by training with Matt Healy to gain a working knowledge of basic blueprint reading, metrology and measuring, and shop math. They also received orientation for geometric dimensioning & tolerencing and machine technology; machine programming on CNC (computer numerical controlled) mills and lathes; and hand tool, assembly, and basic manufacturing skills. In the next phase of training the class got hands-on experience in the machine shop at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) where they moved  on to more advance CNC machining. Then at Worcester Technical High School they were taught Master Cam and took their ten hour OSHA safety training course. In between their machining-related classes, the group polished up their resumes, practiced interviewing skills, and learned about team building and lean manufacturing during career preparation training at the MassMEP offices. Upon graduating from the Advanced CNC Skills Training program, participants received their Machine Operators Pre-Apprentice Certificate and their ten-hour OSHA General Industry Safety Certificate, and were assisted with placement opportunities with local manufacturers.

CNC Training Leads to New Job
Soon after graduation, Cathy Phillips, who owns Phillips Precision with her husband Steve, contacted MassMEP’s Workforce Development Project Manager, Leslie Parady, to inquire about the availability of students from the recent class. Immediately, Leslie thought of Julio and forwarded his resume to the Phillips; they invited him for an interview and facility tour. Cathy and Steve liked Julio and wanted to see what kind of worker he was so they arranged to have him come in for some on-the-job training. Within a week they offered him a full time job.

"Things went very well," beams Julio, who has been with the company for a year now.  His smile and enthusiasm denote the pride he takes in his job and how much he enjoys being part of the Phillips’ team. "I felt Julio was the right fit for Phillips Precision which is a small, team-oriented, highly skilled, precision machine shop." says Parady. "I knew they’d love him… they still do!"

"Julio is a good guy with a great work ethic," shares Steve Phillips. "The guys really enjoy him and it feels like he has been here all along. He has a wonderful sense of humor but also sets a great example…just the right balance! We need more people like him to show others that this (careers in a machine shop) is the way to go." 

Phillips adds, "In today’s machine shops you almost need to be an engineer. They are much more intelligent than old shops now with the computers and so much more math and physics involved and so many chances to be creative and challenged. There is a lot to get excited about. We really wish that we could get the word out better and we try to work with the local high schools to do just that. People, in general, just don’t know what great opportunities exist for them in manufacturing now."

"Advanced CNC Skills Training was a very good and effective program for anyone to go through," offers Santana. "I would certainly recommend it and was not expecting all that I got. The program was easy to follow and very well taught. We got the basics of CNC programming and set up and it made me well prepared for this job at Phillips. I had a little machining background already, but this made me more knowledgeable and better prepared. Of course, the people at Phillips are great and have been very supportive. I have absolutely nothing negative that I could say about any of it."

Additional Training & GED Degree
Along with all the hands on experience Julio has received in the last year, Phillips Precision sent him to do Esprit training, which is a machining software. They continue to invest in his education and recognize his value to the company.

Success with the Advanced CNC program, his job at Phillips, and other training he has participated in brought about a renewed confidence that lead Julio to don a cap and gown last year as he received his G.E.D. at Quinsigamond Community College.

"My family and my kids were very proud," he shares. "I have a different attitude now. My kids are graduating and I wanted that too. When I was younger it didn’t seem to matter that much, but now I recognize the value of education and of learning all you can learn to help yourself move ahead in life."

Steve Phillips, Co-Owner of Phillips Precision and Matt Healy of Mass MEP stand with Julio Santana holding his Machine Operator Apprentice Certificate.

The Advanced CNC Skills Training and Phillips Precision have helped Julio Santana move ahead in life. Many similar opportunities exist throughout our state. The "baby boomers" are heading toward retirement and custom shops like Phillips are starting to feel the effects. As some of their senior employees begin to leave there are few people with the necessary basic skills who can come in and fill those empty positions.

"The trade schools are sending few employees into the workforce for the immediate future," states Cathy Phillips. "The Advanced CNC Skills Training program is a valuable resource for Phillips Precision. We have the benefit of a pool of more mature, experienced workers who want to work. Training such as this should be delivered by an organization with a broad knowledge of manufacturing… and one that has a relationship with the companies they serve. MassMEP knows their client companies and how to place graduates where they fit best. I’d love to see programs like Advanced CNC Skills Training expanded to retrain more of our unemployed work force."

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