Apprenticeship benefits

Miley Molstad

Machinist | Orion Industries

What started out as a night shift position at a King County machine shop for Miley Molstad has turned into a promising career in machining and the aerospace trades. Johnson got into machining after going through a training program at her work. “I realized I really liked working on machines and making products that work for something…The parts go on airplanes and that is pretty exciting stuff for me.” After two months in the training program, Molstad applied for a position and landed a staff position as a swing shift production worker during the night shift.

While working, Molstad pursued her Associate’s Degree at a community college, but was unable to continue. However, after some time, her general manager introduced her to the Aerospace Joint Apprenticeship Committee (AJAC) apprenticeship program where she was able to continue taking classes. While completing the AJAC apprenticeship program, Molstad received her Associate’s Degree, improved her math skills greatly, and now has more responsibilities at her shop including the ability to program her own machines. Before the program, Molstad said “[I was] just learning on the fly and picking up skills here and there. With the program, I am able to fine tune my skills and become a better employee. I have a better understanding of what is going on as far as how I am going to make things work rather than just making a part.” When Molstad first started working, someone set up and programmed her jobs for her. Now as a Sheet Metal Technician, she draws, sets up and programs her own jobs, works on a variety of manual machines, makes parts on milling machines and has improved her inspection skills. Molstad also works with clients setting up their jobs on the machines and teaching them skills they are able to use in and outside of the shop. “I get to be the trainer now instead of the trainee…it is a very rewarding experience” Molstad said.

One of Molstad’s favorite things about becoming a machinist is her ability to be creative. Molstad says, “There are a hundred million ways to do a job, but some are way better than others. Figuring out the bestway to make things and actually seeing it work gets me excited.” Molstad’s career goals included becoming a journey level machinist, learning additional programming skills, and eventually moving into quality system management or becoming a job planner. Molstad has successfully completed both the Machinist (Aircraft-Oriented) and Precision Metal Fabricator Apprenticeship program and has earned a journey-level certificate for both occupations.

Molstad explains there are many challenges and obstacles she has had to face while working at the shop. For example, Molstad is the only woman working on a Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machine and oftentimes has to challenge herself to understand how the men and other workers on the floor are thinking in order to make the job easier, or create a better part. However, her advice for women interested in starting a career in machining is to stick with it because it is a rewarding and fulfilling job. “If you like to get dirty, then it is a good job for you,” says Molstad.