A MA Machine Shop Owner on Why Manufacturing Is a Fulfilling Career Path

By Kristin Carlson, Owner of Peerless Precision

I grew up working alongside my dad in his workshop, and those are some of my fondest memories from my childhood. When I was ten, he brought home some bicycle parts, and we built a ten-speed bicycle together. I remember building furniture and so many other things with him.

It was then that my passion for precision machining was sparked, though it would take me a long time to realize that my love for working with my hands and tinkering with pieces that made up a whole could actually translate into a career path.

Like many people, I fell into the trap of believing that college was the “right choice” for me. I had no idea that a hands-on job like manufacturing could be a viable, fulfilling career.

College Isn’t the Only Path to a Fulfilling Career

I’ve always thought it absurd that we as a society pressure teenagers to decide what they want to do for the rest of their lives—especially when they don’t have all the information about the different opportunities available to them.

Go to college, join the military, or work a minimum-wage job with no growth path. More often than not, high school students are given those options for what to do after they graduate. Many choose to go to college and, in doing so, take on a mountain of debt with no real guarantee of a return on their investment. It’s no surprise that an increasing number of Americans say a 4-year degree isn’t worth the cost.

What I want young people to know is that there’s another option that isn’t always made clear to them: learning a skilled trade, like precision machining.

I want them to know that getting a job in manufacturing requires only a high school diploma or equivalent and that they can earn $40,000 annually starting out. I want them to know that their manufacturing job can easily become a fulfilling career filled with growth opportunities and the potential to eventually earn a six-figure salary.

Even better, many manufacturing companies, including my MA machine shop, reimburse manufacturing workers for the costs of professional development. Essentially, young people have the opportunity to learn, grow, advance, and make more money without taking on a dollar of debt.

Manufacturing Touches Every Aspect of Life

Some people may wonder, “How can a career in precision machining be so fulfilling?” I’m happy to share my perspective on the matter.

What it comes down to, for me, is that manufacturing touches every aspect of human life and truly makes the world go ‘round. This fact has become increasingly clear to me throughout my career in the industry and my time spent networking with other US manufacturing professionals.

Look up into the sky, and every plane or helicopter you see contains hundreds of thousands of parts made in MA machine shops like Peerless Precision. (There’s a reason they call this region of the country Aerospace Alley). It’s impossible not to take immense pride in that.

US manufacturers make parts for the International Space Station and parts for lunar landing modules. They make parts for the cars you drive and the phone you’re probably holding in your hand right now. I even know a shop that makes an injection needle for a certain peanut butter cup that most of us wouldn’t want to live without!

Manufacturing makes people’s lives better. It even saves lives. I have a friend who works at a company that makes needles for biopsies. She was recently diagnosed with breast cancer, and when she needed a biopsy, it was done with the needle her company made. I was at an NTMA conference recently, and one of my colleagues had a knee replacement a few years ago. It turned out the guy he was sitting next to had made that knee.

There aren’t many other career paths where you can have these kinds of experiences—where you can have such a sense of pride and accomplishment in contributing to something that makes a material difference in the world.

From College Dropout to MA Machine Shop Owner

career path

I learned these lessons about manufacturing the long and hard way. I went to college, thinking that was what I was “supposed to do”—and I dropped out. I don’t regret going. I had fun. I met my husband, who also dropped out. Today, he’s one of the top finishing machinists in the country, and I own a machine shop. Both of us couldn’t be happier in our manufacturing careers.

There’s no one right path for everyone. We all have to take our different journeys. What I want you to know—whether you’re just starting your career or considering a career change—is that manufacturing is a deeply fulfilling path for many people. It’s here for you if you want it, so don’t be afraid to pursue it.

Contact Peerless Precision to learn how you can start a career in precision machining!

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  • Curtis Wright
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  • Curtis Wright
  • FLIR
  • Kaman