MEET THE PRO: Jimmy LaBeff, CNC Machinist

By Arkansas Next on Thursday, September 15, 2022

Jacob Slaton
"People seem to get the idea that CNC machinists are button pushers" Jimmy said. "Don’t get me wrong, there are button pushers out there, but there is a lot to be done on a CNC.”

Hometown: Thornton

Age: 28

Where I Trained: Southern Arkansas University Tech

What I Earned: Associate degree in industrial maintenance

Job Title: Machinist General Specialist

Employer: Lockheed Martin

Jimmy enjoys never running out of work when it comes to computer numerical control and welding. After completing his two-year degree program at SAUT, Jimmy began his career welding at a company in Camden. He later joined Lockheed Martin and began mastering CNC machining. He specifically machines blocks or plates of metal down into usable parts for missile canisters, military trucks and launchers. He’s also responsible for setting up fixtures and loading, and setting tools. Jimmy makes offset changes and runs various types of machines. 

“There is never a dull moment at Lockheed Martin," Jimmy said. "...we never run out of interesting, meaningful work.

"Attention-to-detail is a must in the shop," he said. "You must be able to step out of your comfort stay sharp and learn a new way to [improve] your process."


A CNC machinist runs computer-operated machinery to create precision machine parts, tools and other mass-produced equipment. Most products designed are used in the automotive, power, aerospace and manufacturing industry.

Education needed: 

CNC machinists are typically required to earn a high school diploma or GED, and then pursue specific CNC training through technical schools or community colleges. Employers prefer to hire someone with a degree, and tech schools typically offer CNC training programs that take two years to complete. A degree is not required and someone can opt to pursue certification. 

Jacob Slaton

Job Outlook

12.6% employment growth for "CNC Tool Operators" in Arkansas in 2021

1,310 employed as "CNC Tool Operators" in Arkansas in 2021

This option is for you if

  • Math is one of your favorite subjects
  • You’re dependable
  • You're a bit of a perfectionist
  • You enjoy computers and techie gadgets

High-end earners (top 10%) make

Median wages in Arkansas
$41,250 Annual
$19.83 Hourly


  • Arkansas State University-Beebe
  • Arkansas State University-Mid-South
  • Arkansas State University-Mountain Home
  • Arkansas State University-Newport
  • Arkansas Tech University-Ozark Campus
  • Business and Industry Training
  • Camden Manufacturing Apprenticeship Program, Lockheed Martin and SAU Tech Partnership
  • Lockheed Martin Missiles & Fire Control, Camden Operations
  • Southern Arkansas University Tech
  • University of Arkansas - Pulaski Technical College
  • University of Arkansas Community College at Batesville


  • Business and Industry Training
  • Camden Manufacturing Apprenticeship Program, Lockheed Martin and SAU Tech Partnership
  • Central Moloney Inc.
  • Hytrol 
  • Lockheed Martin Missiles & Fire Control, Camden Operations
  • Pace Industries
  • Riceland

*When employment projections were not available for Arkansas, U.S. projections were used