Consumer products are made with many metal and plastic parts. Metal and plastic machine workers set up the machines that produce the parts, and operate them during production. Hundreds of thousands of machine workers in the manufacturing industry work in different phases of production: following blueprints, they set up the machinery to produce the correct product. Machine setters prepare the machines before production and perform test runs of the initial batches, making repairs or adjustments as needed to ensure quality control. Then, operators take over, and may have to load the machine with metal or plastic materials or adjust machine controls during production. They periodically inspect the parts and conduct minor maintenance. At completion, they remove and test finished products, then document production numbers. Metal and plastic machine operators may specialize in a particular type of machine, for example: Computer-controlled machine tool operators operate robots to perform functions on workpieces. Computer numerically controlled machine tool programmers—called CNC workers— develop computer programs to control automated processes. They require more training than other machine workers. Extruding and drawing machine workers push out thermoplastic or metal materials in the form of tubes, rods, or hoses. Cutting, punching, and press machine workers run machines to saw, bend, or straighten materials. Molding, coremaking, and casting machine workers run machines to form metal or thermoplastic parts or products. Multiple machine tool setters, operators, and tenders set up or operate more than one type of cutting or forming machine tool or robot. Manufacturing facilities typically employ machine workers full time, usually in shifts that include evenings, weekends, and frequent overtime. With automation, multiple machines may be controlled at the same time, so workers train on different machines and gain a variety of skills. Because these workers operate powerful, high-speed machines, most usually wear protective equipment, such as safety glasses, earplugs, and steel-toed boots. Respirators are common for those in the plastics industry who work near materials that emit dangerous fumes or dust. Employers prefer to hire candidates with high school education, then train machine operators on the job.
What they do:
Develop programs to control machining or processing of metal or plastic parts by automatic machine tools, equipment, or systems.
On the job, you would:
Write programs in the language of a machine's controller and store programs on media such as punch tapes, magnetic tapes, or disks.
Determine the sequence of machine operations, and select the proper cutting tools needed to machine workpieces into the desired shapes.
Revise programs or tapes to eliminate errors, and retest programs to check that problems have been solved.
Engineering and Technology
computers and electronics
Math and Science
arithmetic, algebra, geometry, calculus, or statistics
Manufactured or Agricultural Goods
manufacture and distribution of products
Arts and Humanities
keeping track of how well people and/or groups are doing in order to make improvements
figuring out how to use new ideas or things
noticing a problem and figuring out the best way to solve it
People and Technology Systems
figuring out how a system should work and how changes in the future will affect it
thinking about the pros and cons of different options and picking the best one
choose the right type of math to solve a problem
add, subtract, multiply, or divide
Ideas and Logic
order or arrange things
notice when problems happen
quickly compare groups of letters, numbers, pictures, or other things
see hidden patterns
listen and understand what people say
People interested in this work like activities that include data, detail, and regular routines.
They do well at jobs that need:
Attention to Detail
You might use software like this on the job:
Computer aided manufacturing CAM software
Vero Software WorkNC
Computer aided design CAD software
PTC Creo Parametric
Object or component oriented development software
certificate after high school or high school diploma/GED usually needed
Examples of Registered Apprenticeship programs include:
CNC Setup Programmer - Milling
CNC Setup Programmer - Milling & Turning
CNC Setup Programmer -Turning
Tool Programmer, Numerical Control
New job opportunities are very likely in the future.