October 26, 2021

Stickles hopes to complete Great Bay’s CNC certificate program in six months

After working in food service for eight years, Jaime Stickles decided it was time for a new career and a new outlook. Taking the advice of a friend who had completed the CNC program at Great Bay Community College and following the lead of an uncle who operates a machine shop, Stickles enrolled at Great Bay this fall with the expectation that his decision to learn a trade would change his life.

“My main goal and the reason I enrolled was because I want to become an engineer at some point, where I can have the financial freedom to do what I want with my life,” said Stickles, 26, of Dover. “This career offers that opportunity.”

Stickles hopes to complete the certificate program in six months. CNC, or computer numeric control, refers to a computer-controlled cutting machine that is widely used across the global industrial and manufacturing sectors. The Great Bay certificate program is designed to prepare participants for entry-level jobs as milling machine operators for metals and plastics, with courses taught over two semesters at Great Bay’s Rochester campus.

A friend of Stickles completed the course and recommended it. “He went through the program and told me how easy it was to understand and pick up. He told me I should check it out, so that is what I did,” he said. “It was not hard to be convinced, because I was kind of looking for a different career path. He told me, ‘I didn’t do the best in high school, but this is so much easier.’  You are going there because you want to go there. It’s a completely different experience.”

He also talked with his uncle, who introduced him to CNC operators at his machine shop in Farmington.

A CNC machine is big and boxy, and looks like it should be complicated to operate. But it’s not, Stickles said. “The programming that goes into it is complicated, but as an operator, you are there to oil up the machine, so to speak, and make sure it does what it is programmed to do,” he said. “What I like about it is how accessible it is and simple it was for me to hop into the program. Everything is laid out right in front of you, and my instructor is pretty understanding and awesome.”

His instructor is program coordinator Kurt Douglas. Stickles appreciates the low student-to-teacher ratio at Great Bay and the time and attention he receives in class. It makes learning easier, he said — and fun.

“I don’t want to be a spokesman, but I wish those people on the fence about changing their career paths were able to take some time to see how much better life could be if they did this program,” he said. “I tell everyone around me who is looking for a change about the CNC program. I wish more people knew about it and how life-changing it could be.”