My GTCC Story: Brian Wilson

Published on: July 24, 2018
Brian Wilson (’18) is a graduate of GTCC’s Computer Integrated Machining program. He is using the skills he acquired in machining and welding at his family’s business in Greensboro.

Machinists are Hidden Gems in Advanced Manufacturing

GTCC Machining Instructor Derek Seeke will tell you that machining is everywhere. Machinists make everything from parts for airplanes, surgical replacement parts and even edible cake decorations fashioned by 3D printers.

“We deal with all types of materials,” he says. “You never know what you could be making or doing. Machinists may not make the shirt you are wearing but they build the machines that manufacture the material.”

New technology has increased the demand for skilled machinists. High-tech tools used in advanced manufacturing require qualified operators to run them. Most machinists work in small machining shops or in manufacturing firms but you’ll also find metalworkers in industries like jewelry.

Brian Wilson (’18) is a graduate of GTCC’s Computer Integrated Machining program. He also holds a certificate in welding and is putting both skills to work at Royal Diadem Jewelers in Greensboro. His father is part owner of the company and Wilson views the transfer of skills as an added bonus. “The ability to work around people I know and trust is really valuable.” 

Tucked away in the back of the store is a laser welder, a steamer and a milling machine ready to manipulate the fine metals found in jewelry making: gold, silver and platinum. Brian works alongside Royal Diadem’s master bench jeweler Sterling VanDerwerker and says CNC milling skills like filing and coating come in handy in his day-to-day work.

“With machining, I have the ability to design and make things,” Wilson says. “It also takes a great deal of creativity – things go right about five percent of the time, so almost every day I get to come up with innovative solutions and challenge myself to think outside the box.”

 Machining wasn’t Wilson’s first option when he enrolled in GTCC’s Career and College Promise program. The program offers North Carolina high school students the chance to earn college credits at a community college campus. Brian was entering the 10th grade and was on the fence when his father suggested the program. Then he discovered welding technology during orientation.

“I realized it was a way for me to work with my hands and learn more about a field I was interested in pursuing as a career,” he said.  

As Brian continued his coursework in welding, Manufacturing Department Chair Don Ellington encouraged him to consider machining as an additional career pathway. Wilson embraced the opportunity.

“You have the ability to design and make things versus welding where it is more repair and assembly,” he says. “With machining, you often have to come up with solutions and be able to think outside the box.”

Wilson had the opportunity to demonstrate his skills in machining at a competitive level. He competed at SkillsUSA and earned first place in CNC milling at SkillsUSA North Carolina in 2018. His performance secured him a spot to compete at the SkillsUSA National Conference in Louisville, Kentucky where he placed eighth.

“This program has provided many opportunities that I wouldn’t have had otherwise,” says Wilson. “For any of these career paths – machining and welding – there are a higher number of jobs available than you would have with a traditional four-year degree. If you want to make money, trade skills are an area to go into.” 

And for those considering a career in machining, Brian offers the following, “You should work around people you trust, enjoy manual labor and, of course, you can’t be afraid of a little dirt.”

Computer Integrated Machining is a two-year program at GTCC and prepares students for entry-level positions in manual and computer numeric control machining.  

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