Customized Workforce Education

Photo of students operating computerized machining equipment in SCC's lab

CNC Machining program for individuals with autism in Southern Minnesota

The Uniquely Abled Academy (UAA) at South Central College (SCC) is a fully-funded program designed to provide individuals with autism the hands-on training and high-tech skills needed to prepare for a career as a computer numerical control (CNC) operator. Offered by SCC’s Customized Workforce Education division, Uniquely Abled Academies were developed nationally through The Uniquely Abled Project. This all-encompassing training program offers funding for qualified applicants and successfully places most trainees in their new careers upon graduation.

South Central College’s first Uniquely Abled Academy was offered in Summer 2022.

South Central College is currently seeking funding to offer more Uniquely Abled Academies next Summer to help prepare more young adults with autism for promising, fulfilling careers.

For more information, email us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Funding Needed

The first Uniquely Abled Academy was free to participants thanks to an Innovation Grant from the Minnesota Department of Human Services. SCC hopes to receive additional funding support to continue the program at no cost to participants again next summer. While it costs approximately $10,000 per student to fund the program, organizers and supporters agree the benefits that come from it are worth the investment. If you or your organization would like to contribute to this program, please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call (507) 389-7429.

UAA Program Overview

In 12 weeks, the Uniquely Abled Academy teaches a cohort of young adults with autism to be entry-level CNC machine operators and provides job placement support. Participating students will receive over 300 hours of in-class instruction (classroom and hands-on), plus 60 hours of job readiness soft skills training tailored to young adults with autism. The final week will consist of mock interviews with local employer partners who are also looking to hire for their companies.

Upon completion, graduates will have the opportunity to test for industry-recognized credentials (NIMS), qualifying them for in-demand, higher-wage, higher-skill jobs in advanced manufacturing. Graduates may also choose to continue expanding their skills with additional CNC Machining courses as part of SCC’s Machine Tool Technology program..  

Fully Funded Opportunity

The Uniquely Abled Academy is currently offered FREE to qualifying applicants thanks to an Innovation Grant awarded to South Central College by the MN Department of Human Services, along with additional partnerships helping to fund the program.

What’s included:

  • 300 hours of in-class instruction with a cohort of peers
  • 60 hours of job readiness soft skills training
  • Mock interviews with local employer partners during the final week
  • Opportunity to test for industry-recognized credentials
  • Transportation assistance

Eligibility Requirements:

  • Must be 18 years of age or older
  • Possess basic computer skills
  • Have the ability to function independently in social and academic settings

Student Learning Outcomes

Participants will learn how to apply basic safety practices in the machine shop, interpret industrial/engineering drawings, apply precision measuring methods to part inspection, and perform basic machine tool equipment setup and operation. Class topics include:

  • Manufacturing processes and safety
  • Shop mathematics
  • Blueprint reading
  • Precision inspection using calipers, micrometers, and dial indicators
  • Geometric tolerances
  • Manual machining
  • Tool selection and geometry
  • Feeds and speeds
  • CNC setup and operation of tools
  • Fixtures and work holding
  • Completion of machining projects using aluminum raw material
  • CNC basic programming, including G Codes, M Codes, and Feed Codes
  • Understanding axis and machining program routines

Why Become a CNC Operator?

CNC operators are an essential part of 21st-century manufacturing. A CNC operator, also known as a CNC machinist, implements the plans created by a CNC programmer to run a computer-numeric controlled machine. This is done by setting the machine and loading it with the right cutting tools as indicated by the program which was developed to produce a specific part. The work of a CNC operator results in large numbers of precisely cut parts created to fill orders from various industries.

This in-demand occupation seeks individuals with unique and specific skill sets. To be successful in this role, CNC operators should have the following traits: a keen eye for detail, mechanical aptitude, ability to perform mathematical calculations, a basic understanding of computer software, ability to comply with safety guidelines, and strong problem-solving and multitasking skills.

In May 2019, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the median annual earnings among computer-controlled machine tool operators (metal and plastic) as $41,200.

CWE trains approximately 12,000 learners annually