22-Yr-Old Shows Machining Is Great for Women, Too

Bailey Pinch is a young woman with a can-do attitude. She's mechanically inclined, doesn't want to spend a career sitting behind a desk, and likes challenging work that calls for innovative thinking, attention to detail, and problem solving.

Most of all, she's "able to run with the big guys," as she puts it, when it comes to getting things done - which is important since her interests and potential earned her a job as an entry-level machinist in a small machine shop.

Pinch adjusts the worktable of the Fives Gidding & Lewis VTC 1600 turning machine she operates. Pinch adjusts the worktable of the Fives Gidding & Lewis VTC 1600 turning machine she operates.

Pinch, 22, joined Mid-Point Machine Inc., of Glenbeulah, Wis., last August, after completing a 12-week CNC Boot Camp at Moraine Park Technical College in Beaver Dam, Wis.

She is the type of employee that machine shops and other manufacturers want: young, motivated, and willing to learn the skills that will let them write their own ticket wherever they want to go, in the words of Mid-Point CEO John Halbach.

Millennials such as Pinch are considered the future of manufacturing, the next generation of workers whose skills will maintain the country's global leadership in the industry for years to come.

They are also proving difficult to recruit. Most high schools have downplayed - or eliminated - the technical courses that traditionally provided students with their initial exposure to manufacturing. Students and parents often see the industry as dirty, boring, and dehumanizing. Efforts to make young people aware of opportunities in the field have produced mixed results.

Pinch came to machining in a roundabout way. She completed two years of college at the University of Wisconsin in Fond du Lac, with a goal of getting an associate's degree in hotel and hospitality management, a business her stepmother was in for 30 years. While she had enough credits for a degree, her courses didn't include all the requirements for her field.

She was disappointed, but a mentor pointed her toward the CNC Boot Camp at Moraine, a course that better suited her desire to do something more than deskwork in hospitality, a career she concedes isn't as glamorous as it seems.

The boot camp included classes Monday through Thursday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and an internship in a machine and welding shop on Fridays for eight hours. The course had its highs and lows.

"My internship was dull, dirty, and boring," she admitted. Nevertheless, after completing the course, she was referred to Halbach through an informal network of friends that he rides motorcycles with on Sunday mornings. "We're a small company and rely on word of mouth for a lot of referrals," he explained.

He called Pinch in for an interview and was impressed with her presence, interest in the job, and positive attitude.

Pinch and Mid-Point Machine CEO John Halbach review a cutting program. Pinch and Mid-Point Machine CEO John Halbach review a cutting program.

This last is especially important to Halbach: "I ask job candidates to tell me what their qualifications are, what their hobbies are, and their interests in mechanical things." He is interested in the inherent skills candidates possess -- even whether they do their own home maintenance, or call people in, is an important consideration. "Good candidates think on their feet and rely on themselves to get jobs done," he explained.

These are the types of people Halbach wants on his shop floor. Machining requires thinking out of the box and working through problems to meet deadlines, he adds.

Pinch isn't the only woman at Mid-Point; two older women also operate machining systems. She was well received by the company's 25 employees, and her tenure has been a success. She sets up and operates a 93,000-lb Fives Giddings & Lewis VTC 1600 vertical turning center, which machines parts up to 79 inches in dia and weighing as much as 33,000 lb.

A typical day can have "endless challenges," she says. Some of these relate to her height: Pinch is 5 ft, 1 in tall. "I've had to compensate for my size all my life," she noted.

Sometimes it's a little hard to do things because of her height, at least at first, but she always finds a way, especially when moving large and heavy objects with a crane or loading cutting tools into the machine. Otherwise, her routine involves setting up tooling, reviewing new cutting programs, and running jobs.

Pinch's near-term goals include learning as much about machining as possible. "Improvement is always a good thing," Pinch said. "I never want to stop learning." She even thinks about returning to school to study machine programming.

Pinch's satisfaction rate is high, especially when it comes to pay. "For a 22-year-old with 12 weeks of schooling, I'm doing very, very well," she remarked.

Pinch observes that manufacturing is "not a male-dominated career anymore. Many women are coming through and getting hired by companies. It's not a bad job."

And that by itself is a sentiment that her peers in the industry, and those responsible for hiring the next generation of workers, no doubt agree with.


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