LLNL welcomes new machinist apprentices

Three men sign papers at a table (Download Image)

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory’s newest machinist apprentices (pictured l-r) Josh Kates, Daniel Hurtado and Hector Preciado, signed their requisite paperwork committing them to the Lab’s four-year Machinist Apprenticeship Program during a registration ceremony on Aug. 17. (Photo: Jeremy Thomas/LLNL)

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory Engineering leadership welcomed the Lab’s newest machinist apprentices during a registration ceremony on Aug. 17.

With program leaders looking on, the three new apprentices — Josh Kates, Daniel Hurtado and Hector Preciado — signed their requisite paperwork committing them to the Lab’s four-year Machinist Apprenticeship Program.

The program, one of the most prestigious of its kind in the state of California, requires apprentices to complete about 8,000 hours of education and experience, including hands-on training with Lab mentors and supplemental instruction on technical theory. Graduates earn a state-certified machinist certificate. The program received more than 100 applicants this year, according to LLNL Manufacturing Superintendent Larry Sage.

Kates, who learned about the program while attending Laney College, decided to pivot to a machinist career from film production, where he worked as a camera operator and equipment technician. Kates said he switched his focus during the COVID-19 pandemic because he preferred the “concreteness” and “direct answers” that come with machining a part. He looks forward to seeing what the next four years brings.

“I feel honored,” Kates said. “I know lot of people applied; my instructor at Laney filled me in on that. It’s very selective, and I really appreciate [being selected]. I want to try the best I can.”

Hurtado, who is studying machine tool technology at Modesto Junior College, said he grew up around machining as the son of a machinist, and progressed to CNC machining in school. He said he’d like to become a “Swiss Army knife,” with knowledge of all types of machines used at the Lab, and that he’s eager to master the trade over the course of the apprenticeship.

“I’m excited to work here because I like to be tested and I know that this place is capable of producing high production and excellent parts,” Hurtado said. “I like my mind to constantly running and trying to think of ways to do something better all the time.”

Preciado, who earned a certificate from Laney College and is currently a student at Chabot College, said as a Berkeley resident living near the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, he’d always searched for opportunities to work for a national laboratory. He said he is “curious to learn everything there is to know” about machining for the Lab.

“It still doesn’t seem real to me,” Preciado said. “I’m a little bit in awe; I still can’t believe it, but it feels good. I just want to take advantage of the opportunity.”

Engineering Directorate Senior Superintendent Randy Pico said the signing ceremony represents a commitment to intensive training and education on behalf of the apprentices as well as their mentors. “From the long history of the Lab, we’re going to be here to help you achieve,” Pico said.

LLNL’s Sage congratulated the new apprentices on “Day One of a four-year journey” and encouraged the group to challenge themselves, ask questions and to absorb as much information as they can during their apprenticeship experiences.

“I’m just really excited for these new apprentices,” Sage said. “I always tell them how they make the apprenticeship what they want; they get to steer a lot of it, in a sense. We really need Lab machinists, so I want them to get to know the Lab and know the parts that we need to make.”