Veteran Machine Tool Instructor Reflects on Industry TrendsMarch 22, 2023
As much as things change, they often also seem to stay the same. That can be said of the machine tool industry — even in the midst of digital advances and increased automation. Don Lytch has been teaching machine tool at Piedmont Technical College (PTC) for nine years and with the Greenwood School District 50 schools for 31 years before that. It can be a challenge to keep up with all the trends impacting work in the constantly advancing skilled trade.
“The industry is changing so rapidly that I am only about one class ahead of my students!” Lytch noted. Computer Numerical Control (CNC) was introduced in the 1970s and continues to evolve today. CNC enables machine tools to easily and efficiently adapt to different tasks based on the specific computer programs being written and run with them. “Aside from the technological developments, the basics of the trade itself remain the same. The principle is still the same.”
Lytch first became inspired by the profession in high school shop class. He feels many schools should bring back shop classes, which have been on the decline in recent years.
“It’s creating something from a blueprint,” Lytch said. “You have to figure out how to make it.” It’s a time-honored skill with many career prospects in advanced manufacturing, an industry that is booming in South Carolina. “Machine tool was one of the original programs at Piedmont Tech, and it’s still here.”
As a PTC instructor, Lytch is grateful for the support the college provides its faculty members.
“We have resources. We have one of the best shops in the state,” he said. “In fact, we have a lot of equipment that is even better than what industry has.”
Lytch worked as a machinist for five years before transitioning to teaching. He says he enjoys the interaction with students and seeing them succeed. Many of his students stay in touch after graduation and share their career experiences and successes.
When he’s not in the classroom, Lytch enjoys outdoor pursuits, including hunting and fishing. He has a passion for tree farming and actively grows longleaf and other varieties of pine trees on his property. “And I like to ride around in a tractor,” he quipped. In their spare time, Lytch and his wife, Pam, a retired schoolteacher, both especially enjoy doting on their two grandsons.
Lytch himself is a technical school graduate and has earned several degrees, but he insists the technical college degree has been far and away the most useful. He says an ideal machine tool student is one who is analytical and understands basic math.
“The typical machine tool student is one who has a job and wants a better job. They see opportunities for advancement by taking machine tool,” he said. “But they must be problem solvers. Yes, they use their hands, but they also have to use their brains.”
For more information about PTC’s Machine Tool Technology Program, visit www.ptc.edu/machinetool. If you would like to explore career opportunities at PTC, visit https://www.governmentjobs.com/careers/sc/ptc