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Why Choose a Career in CNC? Find Out From This NASCAR Tech Grad

Feb 15, 2021 ·

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CNC machining has transformed the world of manufacturing. From automotive parts to medical devices, this process powers the production of parts the world relies on with an incredible amount of efficiency and accuracy.

Despite this, the term “CNC machining” is still a foreign concept to many. At one point, this included NASCAR Tech grad Charles Hilliard. Growing up, Charles had never heard of CNC machining — but that all changed when he took a tour of the NASCAR Technical Institute campus in Mooresville, North Carolina.

Today, Charles spends his days working with CNC machines to create complex parts, and he’s living his dream. Keep reading to find out how he trained to become a CNC machinist and the reasons why this can be an incredible career path.

Meet Charles Hilliard

Charles grew up in a small county in Georgia. When he was young, he didn’t really have an idea of what he wanted to do for his career. He had an interest in engineering, but didn’t necessarily want to go to school for four years.

During his senior year of high school, Charles decided to go on a tour of the NASCAR Tech campus to get a feel for what it was like. That was when he learned about CNC machining, and it sparked an interest in him that would fuel the start of his career.

Charles spent his childhood playing with Legos, and he enjoyed working with his hands and creating things. When he saw how the process of CNC machining worked, he knew this was the right career for him.

“Seeing that you can take a small block of material and make whatever you want out of it seemed really interesting,” Charles shares. “You get to choose what you make.”

Training to Become a CNC Machinist

Shortly after his campus tour, Charles decided he wanted to enroll in the CNC Machining Technology program at NASCAR Tech. While no one in his family had pursued careers in the trades, his parents were supportive of his decision. His mom was glad he had discovered what he wanted to do, and that he would be happy doing it.

Overall, Charles says he had a great experience at NASCAR Tech. He enjoyed his time on campus and did very well — he maintained perfect attendance and was the Student of the Course in his CAD and CAM class.

“I loved my classmates and instructors — I loved everything about it. It went by too quick,” he says.

Charles’ favorite part of the program was learning how to program CNC machines. He was fascinated by the process and enjoyed learning just how complex these machines really are. Certain topics were challenging, like learning manual toolpathing, but Charles was able to grasp the more difficult concepts thanks to the help of his instructors.

I loved my classmates and instructors — I loved everything about it. It went by too quick.
Charles Hilliard, on his CNC Machining Technology training at NASCAR Tech

While in school, Charles worked a part-time job at a machine shop to build his experience. This, in combination with his training, laid a strong foundation of knowledge he could build upon when the time came to pursue his career.

From NASCAR Tech to the Workforce

Before he graduated from NASCAR Tech, Charles had his sights set on a few companies back home in Georgia. However, opportunities aligned for him in North Carolina, so he decided to stay once he completed his training. “It’s better than what I was wanting back home,” he says.

Today, Charles works as a CNC machinist for a company that manufactures parts for diesel trucks. He works alongside three other machinists, and they’re responsible for setting up the machines and keeping up the shop’s production to ensure they’re meeting the demand. Valve bodies, piston covers and converter pistons are just some of the parts they make on a daily basis.

Charles loves being able to come up with ideas and figure out ways to make processes more efficient. His job is challenging at times, but he says it’s rewarding. “I absolutely love my job,” he says. “I love what I do.”

In addition to his hard work and dedication, Charles’ education from NASCAR Tech helped to set him up for success in his career today.6 “With the help of the school, I learned enough to know I can get myself in a job like this and be able to do what I do,” he shares.

The Benefits of a CNC Career

There are many benefits that come with pursuing a career in the CNC industry. For those who are creative and want a job where no two days are exactly alike, this can be a great choice.

Another benefit to pursuing a career in CNC machining is the job security it can bring.1 Charles is grateful to have a career that has remained in demand despite the uncertainty brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.

While COVID-19 has had a negative impact on many industries in recent months, it’s actually caused an increase in demand at the company where Charles works. According to him, their work has actually sped up, and this has led to this year being one of the best for the business.

People are still driving, and the work of Charles and his team is helping to keep vehicles on the road. While he never saw himself playing such a critical role, he’s glad his work is able to make a difference and help to meet the needs of others.

Advice for Future Machinists

For those interested in pursuing a career in CNC machining, Charles’ advice is to go for it. Even if you’re like him and go into it without having any prior knowledge of machining, give it a chance — it might be something you enjoy!

In the future, Charles hopes to continue furthering his skills and eventually work his way up to a CNC programmer role, where he would be one of the people creating the designs and blueprints for the machines to run on. With his drive to succeed, we have no doubt he’ll be able to achieve this goal!

Take the First Step Toward a New Career

Interested in pursuing a career in CNC machining like Charles? UTI’s 36-week CNC Machining Technology program is designed to provide you with the knowledge and skills you need to get there.1 To learn more, visit our program page and request information to get in touch with an Admissions Representative who can guide you through the process.

With classes starting every 3-6 weeks, no need to wait to start your career.
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1) NASCAR Technical Institute is an educational institution and cannot guarantee employment or salary.

2) For program outcome information and other disclosures, visit

6) UTI graduates’ achievements may vary. Individual circumstances and wages depend on personal credentials and economic factors. Work experience, industry certifications, the location of the employer and their compensation programs affect wages. UTI is an educational institution and cannot guarantee employment or salary.

Universal Technical Institute of Illinois, Inc. is approved by the Division of Private Business and Vocational Schools of the Illinois Board of Higher Education.


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