San Bernardino Valley College's Machinist Technology Department is an inclusive space where students of all backgrounds and abilities feel empowered to develop and sharpen their skills.

"I tell people there are only a couple of things we don't make," Miguel Ortiz, associate professor of Machinist Technology, says. "We don't make babies and we don't grow weeds, but we do make everything in between — from the bed the baby uses to the John Deere tractor that plows the earth. We make all the parts."

San Bernardino Valley College has the oldest machinist training facility in the Inland Empire, and is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year. In January the program received several pieces of new equipment to replace obsolete lathes and mills. The items, including an electric servo press, vertical machining center, CNC lathe, and electric discharge machine, were purchased with Strong Work Force grant money. 

By acquiring more computerized equipment, SBVC can offer cutting-edge technology to students. "My drive was to get enough new equipment so there were enough machines for students, and they would have a better learning experience," Ortiz says. "The type of equipment they are learning on is what's out in the industry." 
In order to bring the new equipment into the Applied Technology building, dozens of machines had to be rearranged, and police had to block the street so trucks could make their deliveries.

"It's an extraordinary amount of work to make it all happen in one day," Ortiz says. "I didn't sleep much the night before. I'm the type of person who doesn't believe it until it happens, so I was really excited to see it all come together."

Technicians from the different manufacturers have since visited campus to make sure the equipment is set up and properly connected to power sources, and Ortiz and other instructors will be trained on how to use the equipment when it is all connected.

The Machinist Technology Department offers 50 courses, three degrees, and eight certificates in Mechanical Craft, Industrial Maintenance, Mechanical Drafting and Machinist Technology. Curriculum is regularly updated and revised, and by taking classes and participating in lab activities, students receive broad training in conventional machine tools and computer numerical control machines.

"We're open to having people come down and see what we offer," Ortiz says. "I can be called at any time. I live five miles from the school and consider myself on call, and want people to come by and take a tour."

There are a wide range of students taking Machinist Technology classes at Valley — some are brand new to the field, while others have worked in the industry for decades, and are looking to receive promotions or transition to a job like mechanical drafting, where they can sit and do design work at a computer. Students in the department learn everything from how to set up and operate machine tools that produce precision metal parts to installation and repair of factory equipment. Many end up working in the aerospace, defense supply chain, and advanced manufacturing fields.

In one of the new 600-level courses, students can even bring in their own drawing, show it to their instructor, and then make that item. 
"These have the potential of becoming future products," Ortiz says. "They can sell a patent or start a company to make those actual products."

Ortiz has made it his mission to reach out to different groups, and is working to recruit more veterans, DREAMers, parolees, older undocumented students, members of the LGBTQ community, and women. SBVC is also about to launch a machinist apprenticeship and training for students on the Autism spectrum. 

"I've been at Valley since 1993, and now I believe that it's my turn to give back to the community," Ortiz says. "We have a lot to offer, and I want to see Valley be on top."