NEXT PROS: Tommy Crews, CNC Operator

By Arkansas Next staff on Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Jacob Slaton
“When you’re tearing into something like a problem and you figure it out, it’s a pretty good feeling. Writing programs, doing changeovers for different parts, it makes the time go by pretty fast. It’s pretty nice. I just like the variety of things.” - Tommy Crews

Tommy Crews

Hometown: Valley Springs  |  Age: 22  |  Where I trained: North Arkansas College CNC program and on-the-job training  |  What I earned: Certificate of Proficiency in Engineering | Job title: CNC Technician  |  Employer: Pace Industries in Harrison 

What does a CNC operator do?

CNC = Computer Numerical Control

CNC operators use computer-programmed machines to manufacture precision parts for a variety of different products. The machines drill, cut and shape the raw materials into metal and plastic parts.

Tommy started out doing production for Pace Industries. After a few months, his boss asked him to take a CNC class so that he could be a CNC technician for the company.

"Some of my friends who are still in college are in a tremendous amount of debt right now and have no idea what they want to do. They’ve spent a ton of money and they’re thinking about changing their minds about it."Tommy on student loan debt


• Set up, monitor and operate the machines.

• Calibrate the settings of the machines for temperature, speed and cycle times.

• Feed material into the machines and remove the finished products.

• Use gauges and measuring instruments to test finished products and ensure they meet specifications.

• Record production numbers.

Job Outlook

expected growth from 2016 to 2026 in Arkansas.

Related Occupations

• Grinding, Lapping, Polishing and Buffing Machine Tool Operator

• Rolling Machine Operator

• Machinist

• Multiple Machine Tool Operator

• Heating Treating Equipment Operator

This option is for you if:
You pay attention to details.
You want to create useful things.
You want to learn something new every day.
You’re patient.
You’re a good listener.

High-end earners (top 10%) make

Median wages in Arkansas
$35,980 Annual
$17.30 Hourly


Arkansas State University–Beebe
Arkansas State University–Mid-South
Arkansas State University–Newport
Arkansas Tech University–Ozark Campus
Black River Technical College
College of the Ouachitas
East Arkansas Community College
National Park College
North Arkansas College
NorthWest Arkansas Community College
Phillips Community College of the University of Arkansas
Southern Arkansas University Tech
University of Arkansas – Pulaski Technical College
University of Arkansas at Monticello College of Technology – Crossett
University of Arkansas Community College at Batesville
University of Arkansas Hope–Texarkana


ABB Motors & Mechanical Inc.
L'Oreal Maybelline Co.
Lexicon Inc.
Pace Industries
Riggs Caterpillar
Simmons Foods Inc. & Affiliates

Sources: Bureau of Labor Statistics and

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