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Workforce Wednesday: Caylee VanDenToorn discovers a love of machining through GRCC Job Training

July 6, 2022, GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- Like so many, Caylee VanDenToorn thought she knew what she wanted to do for her career. She started her education in culinary arts but soon realized that it was not for her.

“As a kid, I was always into science and math,” she said. “I was never really quick at it but I did well. In school, I kind of did what my friends were doing so I didn’t take advantage of some classes that may have steered me in this direction. Once I started doing things for myself and making my own decisions, that was a total game changer.”

VanDenToorn had been working in a label dispensing company since high school.

“I learned a lot at that job. I took advantage of the opportunities to learn more about manufacturing until I figured out what I wanted to do for my career.”

A coworker branched off and started his own business doing CNC machining. VanDenToorn saw what he was doing and that sparked her interest. Before that, she had no idea what a CNC machine was but once she saw what it does and how it works, she knew it was what she wanted to do.  

“Finally, I figured out what I wanted to do that fit my interests in science and math,” she said. “In machining you learn about materials, measurements, and how it all comes to together. All of this experience just naturally grew into machining.”

A machinist or CNC technician shapes metal and various materials to precise dimensions for parts by using machine tools. MT/CNC technicians plan and set up the sequence of machine operations in accordance with blueprints, layouts or other instructions to write both manual and computer-generated machine programs.

“I started taking credit classes in manufacturing when I saw the group from the Job Training CNC Machine program in the lab. It was during the COVID pandemic and I just wanted to get through it quickly, so I enrolled in the Job Training program. Now I have my Job Training certificate and soon I will have my associate in manufacturing too.”

“The best thing that I got out of the Job Training program was that it really boosted my confidence! It forces you to work with others. You work together and problem solve. It sticks in your head a lot better than when you have to figure it out yourself.”

The GRCC Job Training CNC Machine Tool program meets 18-weeks for 34 hours per week. The program offers small class sizes, hands-on learning and job placement assistance. The Machine Tool/CNC program has recently been updated to better meet the industry needs.

Skills taught in the program include blueprint reading, basic shop math, read measurement tools and how to communicate effectively with others using today's Machine Tool/CNC terminology.

“At GRCC it’s more focused on hands-on learning. Even in the business and art history, there were aspects that incorporated hands-on activities. I really liked that my teachers worked in the real world. It was great to hear about real world experiences. GRCC made my experience more personal and less stressful. Both delivery methods were beneficial for sure!”

VanDenToorn now works in a two-person shop with multiple machines.

“The thing I like best about working here is that I get to do everything. I love the variety,” she said.

The next section of Job Training programs begins Aug. 8, 2022.

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