Machinist's Corner: Apprenticeships wanted

Author Michael Deren
May 01, 2016 - 10:30am

Lately, I haven’t been hearing much about machinist apprenticeship programs. 

I have been hearing about vo-tech schools, as well as job shops hiring people off the street to just push buttons. Do apprenticeship programs still exist in the U.S.?

The answer is “yes!” 

The Madison Area Technical College and Gateway Technical College here in Wisconsin are two examples of schools offering machinist apprenticeship programs. I can almost guarantee that you can find a similar program at any large technical college near you. 

According to the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development (DWD), a machinist apprentice requires 4 years of training, including 7,888 hours of on-the-job training, 432 hours of paid related instruction and additional hours of unpaid related instruction. (Note that 7,888 + 432 = 8,320, which is 4 years when divided by 40 hours per week and 52 weeks in a year.)

Wisconsin’s requirement that apprentices complete a transition-to-trainer course during their final year of anapprenticeship is a way of paying it forward. As journeymen, they will be responsible for passing on their skills to new apprentices. This 8-hour course teaches a journeyman how to serve as a mentor and job coach, provide hands-on skill training and give positive and effective performance feedback—a great idea to help future generations of apprentice machinists.

The Wisconsin DWD website defines machinists as highly skilled individuals who use machine tools to produce precision-machined parts. Machinists use their knowledge of the working properties of materials and their skill with machine tools to plan and carry out the operations needed to make a variety of products that meet precise specifications.

The description of working conditions includes that “most machine shops are relatively clean, well-lit and ventilated. Many computer-controlled machines are partially or totally enclosed, minimizing the exposure of workers to noise, debris and the lubricants used to cool workpieces during machining.”

In addition, machinists typically work a 40-hour week. Evening and weekend shifts are becoming less common as companies justify investments in more-expensive machinery to extend hours of operation by increasing the use of automation and lights-out manufacturing for less-desirable shifts.

For those considering a career in aerospace manufacturing, the Aerospace Joint Apprenticeship Committee, Seattle and Spokane, Wash., offers a wealth of information, such as how to receive a journey-level certificate in 2 to 4 years, at The compensation can be enticing. For example, the beginning salary for an apprentice is 60 percent of the salary of a fully trained worker. An entry-level machinist earns $14.41 per hour, increasing to $19.21 after 2 years and $24.01 after 4 years. In addition, a tool and die maker earns $19.63 and $26.17 per hour during his first and second year, respectively, increasing to $32.71 after 5 years. These figures are based on Washington State Employment Security Department’s occupational employment and wage estimates for 2014. 

Please share this column with someone you know who might be thinking about joining us in our selected trade.


Machinist's Corner Columnist

Michael Deren is a manufacturing engineer/project manager and a regular CTE contributor. He can be reached via e-mail at