High School:West Lauderdale High School
Training:Meridian Community College
Degree:A two-year certificate in Precision Machining Engineering Technology
Employer:Eaton Aerospace in Jackson
Title:CNC Machinist



Clay Upchurch decided to follow in his father Thomas Upchurch’s footsteps to become a CNC machinist.

While Clay was still in high school, his dad talked to Brian Warren, the instructor of the program at Meridian Community College. Clay was hooked. He’s attended two SkillsUSA competitions where he earned the title of two-time SkillsUSA state champion for the state of Mississippi — making him the first CNC technician state champion.

Clay went on to represent Mississippi at SkillsUSA Nationals in 2018 and 2019, where he earned a silver medal.

For any students considering a career as a machinist or CNC operator, Clay recommends learning from Brian Warren at the Meridian Community College program. “He works with students one-on-one, opens shop up at night for practice and really goes above and beyond,” Clay says. “I would not have the job I have today if not for him.”

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Clay is on page 40!

CNC operators use computer-programmed machines to manufacture precision parts for a variety of different products. The machines drill, cut and shape the raw materials into metal and plastic parts. Machinists use raw materials to make their own parts and tools. They operate machines, and the parts and tools they create eventually go toward building larger things.


  • Operate different kinds of machinery.
  • Understand blueprints and computer-aided design (CAD) files.
  • Examine completed parts to make sure they meet standards.
  • Monitor various machines.
  • Calibrate the settings of machines for temperature, speed, and cycle times.
  • Record production numbers.