Instructor Success

Apprentice instructor at AJAC


Tim Bacon found out about machining without knowing it. A maker at heart, Tim first learned how to make and modify parts while enrolled in Western Washington University’s Vehicle Research Institute—a program focused on complete vehicle design and fabrication.

His love for hands-on work landed him at Bates Technical College, where he earned two degrees in Machining and Manufacturing. Shortly after graduating, Tim began his 20 year career at Tool Gauge & Machine Works, a Tacoma-based manufacturer specializing in metal, plastic parts, and assemblies for the global aerospace industry.

“I started out as an apprentice, my role being the shop fabricator. Then a manual machinist, to CNC mill machinist,” Tim said. “Then, as our only CNC Lathe Journeyman left, I became the CNC lathe machinist. I was the only person in the shop, at the time, who was able to program and run the lathes. Later, I became the Plastics CNC Department Supervisor. I would oversee the flow of jobs through the department, create programs to make the parts, and train the people to help them improve their machinist skills.”

Tim’s breadth of manufacturing knowledge soon developed into his true calling—teaching.

“I was an instructor for the Tacoma Machinist Apprenticeship when AJAC was established. They created a partnership, and I continued teaching the apprenticeship for AJAC. I like helping people, and I enjoy making things. AJAC needed people to share their knowledge about machining with others. It seemed like a natural fit.”

Connecting industry knowledge to the classroom is no easy feat. Over the past ten years, AJAC has built one of the largest statewide instructional workforces of industry professionals and subject matter experts, with the vast majority of our 60 part-time instructors currently working in the advanced manufacturing industries. AJAC works continuously to ensure that our single biggest organizational asset – high quality instructors and industry-driven curriculum – meet the needs of our apprentices and employer partners.

The foundation of apprenticeship is the direct transfer of knowledge from a skilled professional to an entry-level worker who demonstrates an aptitude to learn. Tim’s ability to visualize an idea and bring it into being was the experience his students needed, “Expressing concepts from varying points of view while illustrating it with an analogy. I find a topic a person relates to, and then make an analogy to what we’re doing in the shop. I also perform tasks as counselor or mentor at times. Giving suggestions that, hopefully, will aid the students in making decisions.”

Since 2010, Tim has taught 35 AJAC classes serving over 350 apprentices across all 12 machining courses—from precision measuring and engineering drawings, to manual machining and shop algebra—Tim’s favorite subject.

For Tim, the classroom experience has been challenging yet rewarding, “I remember past instructors that I’ve had and the impact that they’ve made. So I can only imagine that in the future, an apprentice will think about what he/she is doing, and think back to ‘this is what I learned in class’. I seem to be able to connect with people when sharing a principle or process. Then it happens, the student has an “ah ha” moment, mission accomplished!”

Tim’s eight years of apprentice instruction was formally recognized by AJAC during the 2018 Apprenticeship Graduation Ceremony. He became the second instructor to receive AJAC’s “Instructor of the Year Award”, given annually to those who dedicate their lives to passing on their knowledge to the next generation. “They say an aspiration is to do something you love. I’ve found the next level, teaching others how to do that which I have a passion for.” In addition to his role as a lead instructor, Tim served seven years on AJAC’s Committee as an industry representative—leveraging his 20 years of manufacturing experience to evolve AJAC’s curriculum and occupational offerings across Washington State.