Orin Knapp

Orin Knapp has learned a lot in his eight years working in manufacturing. On his journey from entry-level worker to skilled CNC machinist, the Newfane, VT resident has produced everything from eyeglass screws to specialized astronomical parts. “I’ve made things that have gone to outer space,” he says excitedly. “It’s amazing to think of how far I’ve come since I first started.”

But Orin knew he needed more than just on-the-job experience to advance his career even further.

That’s why he participated in Vermont Tech’s SolidWorks & CNC Machining Certification program, offered at River Valley Tech in Springfield, VT. He enrolled with help from the Strengthening Working Families Initiative (SWFI), which offers no-cost training and support services to eligible custodial parents.

“Being a young parent makes it really hard to find time—and extra money—to further my education,” says the father of four-year-old Avangaline and 18-month-old Amelia.

So when he learned about SWFI through his employer, Chroma Technology, he knew he had to take advantage of the fully grant funded learning opportunity. “I told my wife, Mary, and she 100% supported me. What did I have to lose?” Chroma also supported his decision, allowing him to adjust his work schedule to accommodate classes.

He says earning college credits and industry recognized credentials helped validate his eight years working in manufacturing. “I had the experience, but I didn’t have anything to back it up except my word,” says Orin. “With this program, I earned documentation of my manufacturing knowledge.”

He also gained new skills under the guidance of his instructor, Chris Gray, whom he describes as “a really awesome teacher.” Orin describes the SolidWorks & CNC Machining program as “more challenging and in-depth” than trainings he’s taken from other organizations. “If I was an employer, I’d highly recommend Vermont Tech.”

Though Orin joined the SolidWorks & CNC Machining program as a seasoned machinist, he learned alongside students who were new to manufacturing. When he noticed classmates struggling to learn a concept, he helped them by sharing insight gained working in the field. He believes this kind of collaborative, hands-on learning environment can help a student jumpstart a career in manufacturing.

“By taking classes, employers will see that you’re interested in the field and that’ll spark some admiration,” says Orin. “The cool thing about manufacturing is, the more interest you show, the more opportunities you’ll have to grow in your career.”

In short, Orin recommends the SolidWorks & CNC Machining certification program to students of all experience levels.

“If you’re someone already working in manufacturing or want to move into the next level of your career, this is a great program. If you’re new to manufacturing, this is a great way to see if it captures your interest—and if it does, go for it!”

When he’s not busy mastering technology at work, Orin likes to escape to the outdoors with his family. A lifelong horse aficionado, he enjoys working as a farrier on the weekends.

Posted October 2020