How To Become a Press Brake Operator
Working as a press brake operator is a noble career ambition to hold, and opens up a range of opportunities for you in manufacturing firms across the country and even the world.
So what are the steps you’ll need to take in order to become a press brake operator? Read on for a breakdown of the journey that lies ahead of you.
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Get to know different press brake machinery
Press brake tech has evolved significantly over the years, and today the market is surprisingly diverse, with equipment relying on different methods of operation as well as providing different capacities and operational parameters, depending on the needs of the user.
For example, there are powered examples like used hydraulic press brakes and electrically operated press brakes, as well as more traditional mechanical press brakes and even hybrid solutions which give you the best of both worlds.
It’s worth doing your research into these different machinery types, so that you not only have an idea of what you might need to work with, but also what different employers could expect you to use in the line of duty.
Understand the education expectations of most employers
So long as you have completed your high school education, this will be a sufficient basis for prospective employers to hire you as a press brake operator, albeit as an entry level employee who will be expected to undergo extensive on-the-job training or online certification.
You could apply to an apprenticeship scheme if you wish, and receive instruction from an experienced operator to help you get up to speed, while also earning a wage while you are learning the basics.
Another aspect of being a press brake operator is that you’ll need a grounding in a number of associated skills which will help you to be an effective part of any manufacturing environment.
This can include understanding how to interpret blueprints and design drawings, as well as being able to program all sorts of CNC equipment. Smaller operations in particular might need their team members to be adept at the use of more than one machine, so if you can get experience with press brakes as well as lathes, mills, laser cutters and so forth, this could be handy for improving your future prospects.
Consider where you want to work
We already mentioned that press brake operators are needed all over, and this is definitely the case, although there will of course be more demand for them in regions with a high concentration of heavy industry.
You could choose to work for a small scale machine shop, or look for roles within larger manufacturers. You might even decide to open your own machine shop business, although this is not typically something you should consider until you have a few years of experience under your belt working for someone else.
One thing that you could help you come to a decision is the reputation of the employers that currently have openings. It’s easy enough to research the level of employee satisfaction that exists within organizations today, so you don’t need to go into a new role without getting a sense of what the experience will be like.
Accept the pros and cons of the job
Many of the benefits of being a press brake operator have already been mentioned, and average salaries in this sector range from around $29,000 at the bottom end, to over $60,000 for the top earners. Coupled with the strong demand for skilled operators, it can be a rewarding and stable career to adopt.
One of the downsides is that press brake operators are often expected to work long shifts in noisy, potentially hazardous manufacturing environments. In addition, shift work is part and parcel of this profession, so you might need to work overnight or during the weekends at certain points.
Of course there are positive and negative aspects to every job in all industries, and on balance a press brake operator is no better or worse off than the average employee today.
Becoming a press brake operator is not too much of a challenge, and it is a career that can suit quite a lot of people, thanks to the solid wages and decent job growth going forward.
As discussed, it is a good idea to get some experience with this type of machinery before you go all-in on becoming an operator, as first hand interactions with heavy equipment can quickly allow you to discover if it is the right fit for you.