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With the College's help, Odanis Rodriguez turned his childhood interest into a full-fledged career


Odanis Rodriguez’s father sparked his son’s interest in manufacturing when he was a child. Delaware County Community College fanned that spark into a flame, and helped Rodriguez turn his childhood interest into a full-fledged career.

Rodriguez, the first in his family to graduate from college, is a computer numeric control (CNC) machinist at Pennsylvania Machine Works, an Aston-based company that makes high pressure forged steel pipe fittings for many different applications in the marine, nuclear power, petrochemical, shipbuilding, cryogenic and steelmaking industries. 

Growing up in Long Island, N.Y., Rodriguez frequently accompanied his father, who worked in a manufacturing company’s shipping and receiving department.

“I would be in and out of the machine shop,” he said. He also took machine shop classes in high school; but when the family moved, he found Philadelphia schools did not offer these classes. 

After transferring to Delaware County Community College, Rodriguez received hands-on training in CNC operation. He fondly remembers instructors such as William Gelches, who he said took the time to explain drawings, design software and other aspects of CNC operation.

College Offers High-Tech, Hands-On Training

Delaware County Community College offers seven academic manufacturing certificates, an associate degree in Machine Tool Technology and an associate degree in Advanced Technology. The College also features a 300-hour CNC operator/metalworking pre-apprenticeship program, enabling students to quickly gain training needed for high-demand, high growth careers. 

All of the College’s manufacturing training programs are hands-on and utilize machines and processes used by the region’s manufacturing companies. 

Thanks to the increased demand for skilled manufacturing workers in the Philadelphia metropolitan area, Rodriguez landed a part-time job at Pennsylvania Machine Works before even completing his associate degree.

“I took my chances, and asked if they had any openings,” he said, referring to a job fair at the College, where he met Pennsylvania Machine Work’s Human Resource Director Susan Watras. Following the completion of his Associate in Applied Science in Machine Tool Technology, Rodriguez advanced to full-time employment at the company. Watras said they hired Rodriguez because he is “a very motivated individual” and stressed the need for skilled CNC machinists. “It’s a hard area to fill today,” she said.

Nationwide, the manufacturing industry employs more than 12 million workers directly, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. However, according to a 2012 study by Deloitte, about 600,000 skilled manufacturing jobs are unfilled. CNC machines are expensive, high-tech devices that reduce manufacturing time and increase efficiency.

“They’re sophisticated machines that you just can’t let anyone operate,” Watras said. CNC operators can make from $15 to more than $30 an hour; machinists can earn even more.

Through funding provided by the U.S. Department of Labor and administered by the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry, the College is offering free training for students interested in pursuing a career in CNC operations and metalworking. For more information regarding federal funding for training, call 610-359-5362.

Delaware County Community College also provides informational tours of its Advanced Technology Center on the Marple Campus (901 South Media Line Road, Media, PA), between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. on Mondays. To schedule a tour, visit www.dccc.edu/rightnow or call 610-359-5362.

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