Mike Campbell| CBS Detroit

The job market is tough — in Michigan the unemployment rate is at 8.9 percent — but there are jobs out there, especially in specialized markets like machine shops and for high-tech positions like CNC operators.

Fox 2 and WWJ Business Editor Murray Feldman told listeners in a recent Feldman Report that CNC Operators are so hard to come by that companies are paying signing bonuses, relocation packages and a 20 percent increase in salary versus just a year ago.

That’s where Focus: HOPE comes in.

Focus:HOPE is trying to help the economy and help clients, who are struggling to get back on their feet, by training people to become CNC operators at the Focus: HOPE Machinist Training Institute. Manager Mildred Cross said CNC stands for Computer Numeric Control and its operators run programs that control machines.

She said the institute run by Focus:HOPE, which is a Detroit-based nonprofit whose aim is to lift people out of poverty, produces ready-to-work graduates. Since it opened in 1981, the institute has sent 2,500 graduates out into the world, ready for a new career.

“In the 1980s the program contributed to the diversification in the machinist trades. Many early graduates became the first African Americans or female machinists hired into these firms,” says the Machinist Institute website.

Echoing the machine shop hiring trend, Arturo Fuentes, the plant operations manager at 3 Point Machine in Southfield, said his company is looking for experienced robotics experts for jobs that pay $12 to $14 an hour, and offers up to $25 an hour for people with lots of experience.

3 Point Machine has two new job orders and needs to fill 18 positions with a mix of experienced CNC operators and inexperienced machine operators, he said.

“So out of the 18 people, we are looking for a minimum of six experienced and then the other group can be people who are either just coming out of school, have associate’s degree in technology or come out of places like Focus:HOPE,”  Fuentes said.

And, Fuentes said, in the past year they’ve done a lot of hiring from the Focus:HOPE Machine Training program, which is free. The school recently graduated 60 people and has another 40 scheduled to finish their training in January.

Dan Turner, a recent Focus: HOPE machinist training graduate, said the training he got changed his trajectory, adding, “I didn’t know about the field until I came to Focus: HOPE, I didn’t know what a CNC machine operator was.”


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