Christy Smith, a machining student, works at a geared head engine lathe in the Industrial Technology Building at Beaufort County Community College. (Submitted photo/ Beaufort County Community College)

Archived Story

Woman pursues education dreams through BCCC machinist program

Published 9:25pm Thursday, December 13, 2012


By Beaufort County Community College

When Christy Smith was a little girl growing up in Plymouth and Washington, she dreamed of a job that would let her work with her hands.

“I always liked building things,” she said. “It was fun to take a hunk of metal and make it useful.”

So after graduating from Washington High School in 1987, Smith enrolled at Beaufort County Community College in the machining program.

But, Smith said, life got in the way and prevented her from achieving her goals.

She married, had two children and, ultimately, dropped out of school just a few credits shy of earning an associate’s degree.

“I was still a teenager and I didn’t understand the importance of that degree,” she said.

As time went by, Smith found herself caring for her husband through an illness, working as a department manager for a local home supply store and, most recently, working as a waitress.

But she never forgot her childhood dream.

So when Smith, 42, learned that BCCC was expanding its machinist program, she decided it was time to return to college to earn her degree and pursue a career as a machinist.

Improving the Machinist Program at BCCC is one of the activities targeted under the U.S. Department of Labor Employment and Training Administration’s Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training Grant. The $2.2 million, three-year grant will include funding for equipment to upgrade machining along with other programs to meet industry needs.

Her 21-year-old son, Ryan, works in manufacturing for Flanders Filters, a Beaufort County industry, and thought the program would be a good fit for his mother.

Earlier this year Smith enrolled in the program, under the direction of Instructor Matthew Lincoln, a BCCC graduate.

“I enjoy it so much,” Smith said.

Smith said she was pleased to see the many changes that have taken place in the program since she first enrolled some 25 years ago.

Today’s machinists use machine tools that, increasingly, are computer controlled, such as lathes, milling machines, and grinders, to produce precision metal parts, ranging from simple bolts of steel or brass to titanium bone screws for orthopedic implants. Hydraulic parts, anti-lock brakes and automobile pistons are other widely known products that machinists make.

Some newer manufacturing processes use lasers, water jets, electrical discharge machines or electrified wires to cut the metal pieces. Because the technology of machining is changing rapidly, machinists must learn to operate a range of machines.

“Technology has moved on and so have the machines,” she said. “In fact, the newer machines make learning a lot easier today.”

This time, Smith said, nothing will stop her from earning her degree and finding a well-paying job with a local manufacturer.

“I’m going to go ahead and do everything I can to finish,” she said. “With an associate’s degree, I’ll be able to go out there and do any job they put before me.”

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