What exactly is a Career Pathway?
It's a way to plan your education so you can get a great job now and build opportunities for an even better job in the future -- at the same time -- so that the education you seek today will serve you well for the rest of your life. This website lets you explore careers in the Virginia Peninsula that exist right now, discover the education or training you need for those careers, the skills employers expect of you for these jobs, and where these jobs can lead in the future.
Who needs a Career Pathway?
WE ALL DO! It doesn't matter whether you are in high school or college, a retired military veteran, an experienced worker who is in career transition or just a person looking for an exciting new career.
We all need to understand our career paths and how education can impact our job choices now and in the future.
Within our Advanced and Precision Manufacturing Technologies, we have identified 11 career pathways:
- CNC and Robotic Operators
Pathway: Computer control programmers and operators train in various ways—in apprenticeship programs, informally on the job, and in secondary, vocational, or postsecondary schools. The more skills needed for the job, the more education and training are needed to qualify. Many entrants have previously worked as machinists or machine setters, operators and tenders. Entry-level CNC machine operators may need at least a few months of on-the-job training to reach proficiency. Computer control programmers or operators need high school or vocational school courses in trigonometry and algebra, blueprint reading, computer programming, metalworking and drafting. As new technology is introduced, computer control programmers and operators receive additional training, often provided by a representative of the equipment manufacturer or a local technical school. Many entrants to these occupations have experience working as machine setters, operators, and tenders or machinists. Persons interested in becoming computer control programmers or operators should be mechanically inclined and able to work independently and do highly accurate work. Experienced CNC operators may become CNC programmers or machinery mechanics, and some are promoted to supervisory or administrative positions in their firms. Some highly skilled workers move into tool and die making, and a few open their own shops.
- Coating Specialists
Pathway: A few weeks of on-the-job training is sufficient for most workers to learn basic machine operations, but a year or more is required to become a highly-skilled operator or setter. Employers generally prefer workers who have a high school diploma or equivalent for jobs as machine setters, operators and tenders. Those interested in this occupation can improve their employment opportunities by completing high school courses in shop and blueprint reading and
by gaining a working knowledge of the properties of metals and plastics. A solid math background, including courses in algebra, geometry, trigonometry and basic statistics, also is useful, along with experience working with computers. Job opportunities and advancement can be enhanced by becoming certified in a particular machine skill. There are many trade groups that
offer certification for machine operators and setup workers, and certifications vary greatly depending upon the skill level involved. Certifications may allow operators and setters to switch jobs more easily because they can prove their skills to a potential employer. Advancement usually takes the form of higher pay and a wider
range of responsibilities. With experience and expertise, workers can become trainees for more highly skilled positions; for instance, it is common for machine operators to move into setup or
machinery maintenance positions. Setup workers may also move into maintenance, machinist, or tool and die maker roles. Skilled workers with good communication and analytical skills can move
into supervisory positions.
Pathway: Electricians learn through apprenticeship programs that typically last 4 years, each with 144 hours of classroom instruction and 2,000 hours of on-the-job training under the supervision of experienced electricians. Licensing is required with continuing education that includes changes in code, safety training, and manufacturer-specific training. Electricians may specialize with additional classes on data,
video, communications or energy systems. Experienced electricians can, with additional management and supervision training and well-developed communication skills, advance to jobs as supervisors, project managers or superintendents, and may eventually start their own contracting business.
- Engineers/Eng. Technicians
Pathway: Most employers prefer to hire engineering technicians with a two-year associate degree or other postsecondary training in engineering technology. Training is available at technical institutes, at community colleges, at extension divisions of colleges and universities, at public and private vocationaltechnical schools and in the Armed Forces. Although it may be possible to qualify for certain engineering technician jobs without formal training, workers with less formal engineering technology training need more time to learn skills while on the job. Prospective engineering technicians should take as many high school science and math courses as possible to prepare for programs in engineering technology after high school. Vocationaltechnical schools, another source of technical training, include postsecondary public institutions that serve local students and emphasize training needed by local employers. Most schools that offer training to become an engineering technician require a high school diploma or its equivalent for admission. Many military technical training programs are highly regarded by employers, however, skills acquired in military programs are often narrowly focused and may be less applicable in civilian industry, which often requires broader training. Therefore, some additional training may be needed, depending on the acquired skills and the kind of job. Engineering technicians usually begin by performing routine duties under the close supervision of an experienced technician, technologist, engineer or scientist. As they gain experience, they are given more difficult assignments with only general supervision. Some engineering technicians eventually become supervisors.
- Fabricators/Sheet Metal Workers
Pathway: Sheet metal workers learn their trade through both formal apprenticeships and informal on-the-job training programs. For some, this training begins in a high school where classes in English, algebra, geometry, physics, mechanical drawing
and blueprint reading and general shop are recommended. After high school there are a number of different ways to train. Most sheet metal workers in large-scale manufacturing receive on-the-job training with additional class work or in-house training as necessary. The training needed to become proficient in manufacturing takes less
time than the training for proficiency in onstruction. It is important for experienced sheet metal workers to keep abreast of new technological developments, such as the use of computerized layout and laser-cutting machines.
Certifications in one of the specialties can be beneficial to workers and are offered by a wide variety of associations, several of which are listed in the sources of additional information at the end of this statement. Sheet metal
workers in manufacturing may advance to positions as supervisors or quality inspectors. Some of these workers may move into other management positions.
Pathway: Most plumbers, pipelayers, pipefitters and steamfitters train on the job through jointly administered apprenticeships and in career or technical schools or community colleges. Attainment of this certification may help people trained in this area to get more jobs and advance more quickly.
Pathway: Machinists train in apprenticeship programs, vocational schools, community or technical colleges or informally on the job. Many entrants previously have worked as machine setters, operators or tenders. There are many different ways to become a skilled machinist. In high school, students should take math courses, especially trigonometry and geometry, and if available, courses in blueprint reading, metalworking and drafting. Due to the increasing use of computer-controlled machinery, basic computer skills are needed before entering a training program. After highschool some machinists learn entirely on the job, but most acquire their skills in a mix of classroom and on-the-job training. Formal apprenticeship programs, typically sponsored by a union or manufacturer, are an excellent way to learn the job of machinist, but are often hard to get into. People interested in becoming machinists should be mechanically inclined, have good problem-solving
abilities, be able to work independently and be able to do highly accurate work (tolerances may reach 50/1,000,000ths of an inch) that requires concentration and physical effort. Experience
working with machine tools is helpful. Machinists can advance in several ways. Experienced machinists may become CNC programmers, tool and die makers or mold makers, or be promoted to supervisory or administrative positions in their firms. A few open their own machine shops.
Pathway: Because of the diversity of manufacturing operations, there is no standard
preparation for this occupation. Most employers prefer to hire workers
with a college degree in business administration, management, industrial
technology or industrial engineering and who have experience in some
part of production operations. Some companies will hire well-rounded
graduates from other fields who are willing to spend time in production
operations to gain experience before advancing to upper-management.
Some managers start as production workers, then supervisors before being
selected for management. To increase the chance of promotion, workers can
expand their skills by obtaining a college degree, demonstrating leadership
qualities or taking company-sponsored courses to learn additional skills. An
increasing number of employers are looking for candidates with graduate
degrees in industrial management or business administration, particularly
for positions at larger plants where managers have more oversight
responsibilities. Combined with an undergraduate degree in engineering,
either of these graduate degrees is considered good preparation. Managers
who do not have graduate degrees often take courses in decision sciences
providing them with techniques and statistical formulas that can be used to
maximize efficiency and improve quality. Although certification in various
quality and management systems is not required for manager jobs, it may
improve job prospects. A proven record of superior performance may lead
to advancement to plant manager or vice president of manufacturing or to
Pathway: Most plumbers, pipelayers, pipefitters and steamfitters train on the job through jointly administered apprenticeships and in career or technical schools or community colleges. Attainment of this certification may help people trained in this area get more jobs and advance more quickly.
- Repair Technicians
Pathway: Employers often prefer applicants with an associate degree in electronics from a community college or technical school, although a high school diploma may be sufficient for some jobs and professional certification often is required. Entry level repairers may begin by working with experienced technicians who provide technical guidance and work independently only after developing the necessary skills. To become certified, applicants must meet several prerequisites and pass a comprehensive written or online examination. Certification demonstrates a level of competency and can make an applicant more attractive to employers, as well as increase one’s opportunities for advancement. Experienced
repairers with advanced training may become specialists or troubleshooters who assist other repairers diagnose difficult problems. Workers with leadership skills may become supervisors of other repairers. Some experienced workers open their own repair shops.
Pathway: Training for welding, soldering and brazing workers can range from a few weeks of school or on-the-job training for low-skilled positions to several years of combined school and on-the-job
training for highly skilled jobs. Formal training is available in high schools and postsecondary institutions, such as vocationaltechnical institutes, community colleges and private welding, soldering and brazing schools. Some employers are willing to hire inexperienced entry-level workers and train them on the job, but many prefer to hire workers who have been through formal training programs. Courses in blueprint reading, shop mathematics, mechanical drawing, physics, chemistry and metallurgy are helpful.
An understanding of electricity also is very helpful, and knowledge of computers is gaining importance, especially for welding, soldering and brazing machine operators, who are becoming more responsible for programming robots and other computer-controlled machines. Because understanding the welding process and inspecting welds is important for both welders and welding
machine operators, companies hiring machine operators prefer workers with a background in welding. Some welding positions require general certifications in welding or certifications in specific skills such as inspection or robotic welding. The American Welding Society certification courses are offered at many welding schools. Some employers have developed their own internal certification tests. Some employers are willing to pay training and testing costs for employees while others require workers to pay for classes and certification themselves. Welding, soldering and brazing workers need good eyesight, hand-eye coordination, and manual dexterity,
along with good math, problem-solving and communication skills. They should be able to concentrate on detailed work for long periods and be able to bend, stoop and work in awkward positions. In addition, welders increasingly must be willing to receive training and perform tasks required in other production jobs. Welders can
advance to more skilled welding jobs with additional training and experience. For example, they may become welding technicians, supervisors, inspectors or instructors. Some experienced welders open their own repair shops. Other welders, especially those who obtain a bachelor’s degree or have many years of experience, may
become welding engineers.
Welcome to our Roadmap to Success Website. This site is about real jobs, real training programs and real career options for you.
All the major Virginia Peninsula manufacturers have shared their hiring needs for the next 5 years and the skills they are seeking for these jobs and jobs of the future.
Colleges, community colleges, training providers and K-12 school systems have identified where to get the specific skills identified by employers.
The result is a website that is your GPS to explore career pathways to days real, available and high paying jobs and the educational pathway for advancement.
Hop in ... it's time to navigate your career.