Q+A With Machinist Apprentice Colleen Blair

Meet Colleen, a level 3 Machinist apprentice who loves the growth opportunities that come with a skilled trades career.

How did you first hear about the skilled trades and what inspired you to pursue it as a career?
My father is a machinist who owns his own machine shop. I started working for him on days off school, sweeping or cleaning to make some pocket change. I loved the smell, the tools, watching my dad make parts from nothing. I loved it the second I walked in and I knew from there I needed to do this. The day after I graduated high school I was in coveralls and became my dad's apprentice.

Describe what you love most about the skilled trades?
I love being busy and active. I love problem-solving and a good challenge. Not only does this job test your limits but it makes you a better person. I've never been able to show who I am until I started machining.

What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
Aside from machining as a passion, I'm also building a mud truck. I have a '93 Toyota pickup that I'm constantly modifying and making stronger. I just finished a motor swap, and I'm currently solid axel swapping it and putting a crawler case in. The plan is to rock crawl and sling some mud out of the tires.

What are you most proud of?
I'm proud that I moved on from my dad's shop and went to work at Delta Dynamics.  Changing shops allowed me to grow so much as a machinist. I came from a completely old school machine shop - no digital readouts or computers, just dials and hand-ground tools. At my new shop, I've been learning how to program, cut a wide range of material types, and use some incredible tooling. I can't wait for what's next!

What advice would you give to people who are considering joining the skilled trades?
A skilled trades career provides steady hours, benefits, good pay, and the ability to grow. But for a lot of women, it seems like an unreachable career option. It can be hard stepping into a job that can seem unwelcoming because of the lack of gender diversity. Your quality of work will show how much you have to offer. Don't let yourself be discouraged by others. If satisfaction from creating, designing, and building is something you know you want from life, then this is something to pursue.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
In ten years I hope to go somewhere with my truck like King of the Hammers or Moab. I'd also like to shift my machining into building and machining race engines. I'd like to be dual-ticketed as well. Welding would give me an edge to be able to fabricate and weld a cage for my truck. Something about watching giant cages with huge tires go up a mountainside like it's pavement that makes me need to do it. I hope to make 4x4ing an extension of my trades skills so I can explore it more personally and creatively.

Want to start your career as a Machinist

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