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Welcome to ACE

There is an urgent and growing need in the U.S. machining and machine tool industry for skilled individuals – operators, engineers, designers and more – in the 30,000 machining companies across America. America’s Cutting Edge (ACE) is a national initiative to restore the prominence of the U.S. machine tools sector. Through ACE, you can receive free online training and also qualify for hands-on, in-person training that can put you on a path to a career (or advancement, for existing workers) in the machine tool industry. No prior training or experience is required. Machining and machine tools are at the foundation of America’s manufacturing capability and its global competitiveness.

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The Opportunity

Is the ACE CNC training for me?

The ACE CNC training is for anyone interested in exploring the potential for a career or advancement within the machine tool industry.  This includes the next generation of machinists, manufacturing engineers, machine tool designers, and entrepreneurs who want to learn more about the benefits, opportunities, and rewards of a career in manufacturing. Students as young as high school freshmen to veterans transitioning from military service are encouraged to register. Current machinists will learn about the latest technologies measuring vibrations in a system, which could save time and money by improved machine efficiency and reduced material waste.

Why was the ACE CNC training developed?

Jobs in the Machine Tool industry are going unfilled and the need for skilled machinists is growing rapidly. A recent survey from the National Association of Manufacturers found that 77% of manufacturers say they have ongoing difficulties in attracting and retaining workers. The ACE CNC Advancing Technology & Workforce program does not produce machinists immediately but is designed to offer a no-cost comprehensive introduction to the technology and potential career paths within the machine tool industry.

When was the ACE CNC training launched?

The online curriculum for ACE was launched in December 2020, and in-person training began the summer of 2021. The initial pilot program was so successful, that the efforts to scale the program nationally are in progress.

How long does it take to complete the training?

The online training is divided into modules, allowing you to proceed at your own pace. The total online instruction time is approximately 6 hours. Upon completion, you are eligible for the optional hands-on training. The 30-hour in-person component may be taught over the course of one week or spread out over several days and weeks.

Where does the in-person training take place?

The ACE program is moving quickly to grow its network of training centers. Today, all in-person training is conducted at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville or Pellissippi State Community College. However, additional training centers – including at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical University in Greensboro, NC – will be opening in the near future.

Do I have to take the online course before the in-person training?
Yes. Completion of the online course is a prerequisite for taking the in-person class.

Can I take just the online course?
Yes. The in-person training that follows is optional and based on availability.

What will I get at the completion of the course?
All students who complete the online training will receive a certificate of competition, 0.6 Continuing Education Units (CEUs) from Pellissippi State Community College, and a digital copy of Machining Dynamics: Frequency Response to Improved Productivity.

What does it cost?
No cost, $0, zilch, nothing, nada.

The Industry

What is a machine tool?
Machine tools make the world’s machines. They are integral to our industrial economy, to our health and welfare, and to our national defense. Machine tools either directly make, or make the tooling to make, almost everything. They are the basis of modern manufacturing and are fundamental to modern life.

What are machine tools used for?
Machine tools directly create aerostructures, automobile engine blocks, scroll compressors, turbine blades, valve bodies, propellers, and much more. They make the mold tooling that makes bottles, lids, test tubes, tires, gas tanks, electrical housings, bumpers, dashboards, syringes, contact lenses, and cell phone camera lenses. They make the extrusion dies used to create N95 medical mask filter fibers, Kevlar fibers, pasta, medical tubing, PVC pipes, window frames, and polymer sheets. They make the forming tools used to manufacture auto body parts, white goods, cutlery, helmets, beverage cans, ammunition, wrenches, and more. They produce today’s energy systems and are critical to U.S. success in cost effective energy generation and distribution.

What is the current state of the U.S. Machine Tool industry?
A low rate of investment in U.S. machine tool innovation for more than a generation has dramatically reduced the ability of the U.S. to generate and produce next-generation machine tools for the manufacturers of all kinds of products ranging from medical equipment to transportation to defense material, but that is beginning to change. Today, critical machine tool components commonly procured from overseas include steel, large castings, bearings, ball screws, guideways, spindles, and industrial controls. Alternative sources are now being explored in the United States. This is a matter of national security because without a domestic machine tool industry, the approximately 30,000 U.S. machine shops (more than 80% of which employ 100 people or fewer) must compete to purchase foreign built machine tools on the world market.

What kind of money can I make as a machine tool operator?
The average national wage for a CNC machinist is $30/hour but that can vary considerably by location, shifts, and experience.

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