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 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.

UAA Program Overview

In 10 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 200 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..  

2023 Summer Schedule

Classes will take place at the North Mankato Campus of South Central College.

June 12 - August 4, 2023 (CNC Operator Curriculum)
August 7 - August 17, 2023 (SuccessAbilities Skill Development)

Monday - Thursday: 7:30 a.m. - 3:30 p.m. 
Friday: 7:30 a.m. - 11:30 a.m.

*No class Monday, June 19, 2023 and Tuesday, July 4, 2023.

Application Process:

There are 6 total seats available.

  1. Complete online application 
  2. Attend an open house at South Central College, North Mankato Campus
  3. Schedule an assessment/interview
  4. Final 6 candidates selected

Application Timeline:

  • March 29: Applications open on a rolling basis and will be accepted until the program is filled
  • May 4 - 19: Open houses held
  • May 9: Commitment worksheets due
  • May 22 - 26: Semi-finalists interviews/assessments
  • May 29 - June 2:  Finalists selected and confirmed
  • June 12: Program starts

Program Costs:

The Uniquely Abled Academy was approved for an extended Innovation Grant awarded to South Central College by the Minnesota Department of Human Services to provide the program at a reduced rate of $2,500 per participant. Participants receiving services from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) may also receive support to cover the remaining cost of the program. For details contact Ryan Lais, DEED Youth Services Specialist-Southern Minnesota Region at 507-995-0110 

What’s included:

  • Over 200 hours of in-class instruction with a cohort of peers
  • Over 60 hours of job readiness soft skills training
  • Practice interviews with local employer partners during the final week
  • Opportunity to test for industry-recognized credentials

Eligibility Requirements:

  • Must be 18 years of age or older
  • Possess basic computer skills
  • Possess basic math skills
  • Possess basic to intermediate reading and comprehension skills
  • Ability to communicate written and verbally in English
  • Hand strength to successfully tighten a chuck
  • Ability to stand for 4 hours continuously
  • Ability to function independently in social and academic settings


There are transporation options and assistance programs available if needed. 

Community Support Services:

Students who have community support services in place tend to be more successful in the completion of the program and can be eligible to receive additional job coaching and placement support. Please contact Ryan Lais, Youth Services Specialist-Southern Minnesota Region, Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development at 507-995-0110 for additional information on these services.

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.

Learn More About a CNC Operator:

Minnesota State CAREERwise: Computer-Controlled Machine Tool Operators
WorkBC's Career Trek: Computer Numerically Controlled (CNC) Machine Operator (Episode 125)
MacKay Manufacturing: CNC Operator Overview
My Next Move: Computer Numerically Controlled Tool Programmers What is CNC Machining? | Definition, Processes, Components & More

CWE trains approximately 12,000 learners annually