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Metal machinist (first class)

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Summary of occupation

Metal machinists operate the equipment and machinery that is used to create metal tools and parts. They set up, maintain and operate the machines that cut and shape metal stock and castings, forming intricate, exact parts. They refer to detailed drawings and computer-aided design (CAD) systems to obtain the specifications for the job, calculate dimensions, measure and mark the metal and undertake the machine processes that create exact parts. They may also perform heat treatment processes on metals. Metal machinists work mostly in the metro area and in larger regional centres, creating parts for machines that are used in everything from mining to manufacturing and food production.

ANZSCO description: Sets up and operates machine tools to shape and form metal stock and castings to fine tolerances, using detailed drawings and specifications.
Alternative names: Engineering Machine Operator, Machinist (Metal), Mechanical Tradesperson, Toolmaker
Specialisations: Aircraft Machinist, Automotive Machinist, Metal Machine Setter, Metal Turner, Milling Machinist, Vertical Borer
Job prospects: Average
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Knowledge, skills and attributes

A metal machinist needs:

  • to enjoy working with their hands
  • an interest in machinery
  • manual, technical and practical skills
  • to be able to undertake precise and detailed work
  • physical strength and stamina
  • to be able to work to strict deadlines
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Working conditions

Metal machinists work in factories, workshops and similar environments. Conditions can be dirty and noisy. They are often on their feet for long periods and their work may be repetitive. They may be required to maintain strict safety regulations.

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Salary details

On average, metal machinists (first class), classified under metal fitters and machinists, can expect to earn between $1 500 and $1 999 per week ($78 000 and $103 999 per year), depending on the organisation they work for, and their level of experience.

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Tools and technologies

Metal machinists use computer numerical control (CNC) machines, drilling, turning, boring, plating and milling machines, lathes and other hand tools. They work with metals such as brass and steel. They may also operate welding or brazing equipment, as well as precise measuring equipment that ensures accuracy and precision. Metal machinists need to wear safety gear such as goggles, gloves, boots and protective clothing.

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Education and training/entrance requirements

To become a metal machinist (first class), you usually need to complete an apprenticeship. The metal machinist (first class) – engineering apprenticeship usually takes 48 months to complete and is available as a school-based apprenticeship. 

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Apprenticeships and traineeships

As an apprentice or trainee, you enter into a formal training contract with an employer. You spend most of your time working and learning practical skills on the job and you spend some time undertaking structured training with a registered training provider of your choice. They will assess your skills and when you are competent in all areas, you will be awarded a nationally recognised qualification.

If you are still at school you can access an apprenticeship through your school. You generally start your school based apprenticeship by attending school three days a week, spending one day at a registered training organisation and one day at work. Talk to your school's VET Co-ordinator to start your training now through VET in Schools. If you get a full-time apprenticeship you can apply to leave school before reaching the school leaving age.

If you are no longer at school you can apply for an apprenticeship or traineeship and get paid while you learn and work.

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Recognition of prior learning

If you think you already have some of the skills or competencies, obtained either through non-formal or informal learning, you may be able to gain credit through recognition of prior learning.

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Metal machinists operate the equipment and machinery that is used to create metal tools and parts.

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