Keith Richard Smiles – General Machinist Apprentice – Apprenticeship start date: June 2002

What motivated an Ontario Scholar, who had always dreamt of working in the music industry, to enter the skilled trades?  Read his case study to learn how Keith developed a passion for his trade – and why he enjoys his work.

1.Introduction/Why I chose this trade

“I became interested in the trade while I was working in a loud speaker manufacturing plant, which housed a machine shop.  The boss’s father was a General Machinist by trade.  I enjoyed watching him work on the machinery and wanted to learn more about the metal cutting industry.  As I began researching the trade, I realized that there was going to be a shortage in skilled workers in the next 5 to 10 years.  That is when I thought it would be a good idea to go the apprenticeship route, knowing that the skills and knowledge I would acquire would allow me to always find work.”

2.  Skills
“To work in the metalworking industry, the most important skills are practical math, problem solving, trouble shooting, attention to detail, interpretation & processing, team building and hand skills to name a few.” But just as important are motivation, confidence, caution and an eagerness to learn.  Without these skills most people, employers and co-workers, will be reluctant to do any training with you or allow you to work alone on the machinery.

3.  My trade – My day

“A typical day consists of setting up the machinery and producing first-off’s to start the production day.  I’m given a drawing, I upload a previously prepared part program and pick my tools stated on the set-up sheet.  I then select my work holding devices, pick my datum points and perform a dry run of the program.  If all looks well, I put my part in, cut it and then perform dimensional verification to make sure the part matches the drawing.  If it doesn’t, I make whatever changes are necessary whether it be a program change, tool change or a different set-up.”

“The work environment in a machine shop is generally noisy and sometimes dirty.  Safety glasses and safety boots are a must at all times, and I personally recommend ear plugs or ear muffs to protect your hearing from prolonged exposure to high volumes of machine noise.  Comfortable safety boots are a good idea because 95% of the day is spent on your feet.  Other safety considerations are no long hair or loose fitting clothing and no jewelry.  The most important safety consideration is “If you don’t know, ASK?”   Most accidents in a machine shop occur due to the lack of knowledge, not carelessness.”

4.  Salary

“If you’re apprenticing, don’t expect too much.  The money comes after you write your certification – that’s when you can ask for the money.”

5.  Challenges – Advice

“The greatest challenge is to mesh all the theoretical knowledge gained while attending your in-school training and making it practical in the work place.  The reason for this is that some things look great on paper, but when the time comes to produce the intended product it doesn’t always work or go the way you want it to.  Ultimately, all of it comes with experience and exposure to the job over time.”

6.  The Future

“The opportunities are endless.  With the skills I’ve learned as a General Machinist Apprentice, I can apply them to other trade avenues such a Tool & Die, Mould Making and Millwright.  The other mentioned trades are very different, but all use the same underlying principles of machining to produce a specific product.”

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