Lyndzie Pechacek recalls watching with wonderment as a little girl while her father worked in a machine shop. He enjoyed tinkering, so naturally, she did as well.
As she grew, Pechacek (pronounced puh-HAW-chek), wrangled with the next step leading to a career of her own.
“I was torn between going to college – where I knew I had no idea what major and career I would pursue – or going to Canadian Valley (Technology Center),” she said.
Recent trends show such a struggle is common. Just under half of Oklahoma’s 44,000 or so public high school seniors enroll in college the next fall, according to information supplied by the State Department of Education. Half of those – or about 25 percent of the total population – complete a college degree, according to Census Bureau data.
Educational options abound for the 75 percent who do not complete a degree, including the 55 percent who never go to college. Oklahoma’s Career Tech system includes 29 technology centers stretching from Buffalo to Broken Bow.
Pechacek, 18, of Tuttle, ultimately decided to follow a strikingly similar path chosen by her father. After graduating high school, she enrolled in the Precision Machining program at CV Tech’s Chickasha Campus. Her father, Marcus Ewing, enrolled in the same program more than two decades earlier.
“I knew I would enjoy it and could become successful with it,” she said. “I like to joke that it’s in the blood since my mom has always said I am exactly like my dad. I quickly fell in love with working in the shop.”
Machinists start with a blue print and use machine tools, such as manual or computer controlled lathes, milling machines and grinders to produce precise parts made of aluminum, steel and even titanium.
They might make a large quantity of one part, such as those for automobiles or aircraft, or they could be required to make a limited number of parts, such as orthopedic screws or dental implants. Some machinists manufacture components for the U.S. military, including tank and jet parts and cutting-edge exoskeletons.
Nearly 461,000 machinists are employed nationally, according to information supplied from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which also predicts modest job growth of about 3% over the next 10 years. The median annual wage (half earn more, half less) for machinists or tool and die makers is between $44,420 and $54,000, or between $21.50 and $27 per hour.
Pechacek, who will compete the machining program in May 2021, said she looks forward to a day when she earn a steady paycheck as a machinist.
“I am really close with my dad,” she said. “We have talked about the idea of opening a shop, and I know I would love working with him and learning from him if we did.
“I really love so many things about machining. There is always something to learn, and I like the challenge of trying to make a perfect part. I also like the instant gratification of making a part and watching it become something useful right in front of you.”
Pechacek, who also represents her program as a state SkillUSA officer, is a proponent of more females entering the profession. She has advice for those who might be unsure of a career as a machinist.
“I would tell you to go for it,” she said. “I think maybe it can be intimidating, because it is much different than high school. But I love the family atmosphere on campus, especially in the machine shop. I think it’s a great place to meet people and find something you love that you can prepare for a career. It was definitely the right decision for me.”