CNC Set-Up Programmer-Milling and Turning

Recognized Skill Standards
September 13, 2019


The CNC Set-Up Programmer–Milling and Turning competency-based occupational framework was submitted for skill standards recognition by the National Institute for Metalworking Skills (NIMS), which participated in the frameworks’ development. NIMS has a stakeholder base of over 6,000 metalworking companies in partnership with five major industry trade associations. The vision of NIMS is to empower organizations and individuals through workforce skills standards and credentials to build a thriving and globally competitive manufacturing industry. 


The occupational framework’s development was facilitated by the Urban Institute under a grant from the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) in August 2018. The grant funded an initiative to identify the content (industry competencies) and worker qualifications required to perform in various occupations. The CNC Set-Up Programmer–Milling and Turning competency-based occupational framework meets the definition and recognition criteria for Texas skill standards. The DOL grant required a rigorous development and validation process that adhered to standard job analysis methodology, including convening industry subject matter experts to identify the work-oriented information and validation by a wider range of practitioners in the occupation. 

The CNC Set-Up Programmer–Milling and Turning framework is composed of the following seven job functions: 1) demonstrates basics of measurement, materials, and safety of products and parts; 2) conducts job planning, layout, and benchwork; 3) operates manufacturing equipment; 4) generates CNC programming and operates a milling machine; 5) demonstrates CNC turning operations and operates a CNC lathe; 6) conducts general housekeeping and maintenance; and 7) engages in career management and employee relations. 

Comparing Competency-Based Occupational Frameworks to Texas Skill Standards

The competency-based occupational frameworks have a different format and nomenclature than skill standards recognized in Texas. But the content is the same, and the elements that constitute the frameworks are equivalent to the elements that constitute skill standards. Skill standards elements are composed of work-oriented information, describing the critical work functions, the key activities that make up those functions, and the performance criteria or proficiency level to which the activities must be performed. The occupational frameworks are also composed of these work-oriented elements, called job functions, competencies, and performance criteria, respectively. 

Skill standards are also composed of worker-oriented information, which specifies the skills and knowledge required of the worker to perform the work. The worker-oriented elements include:

  • Academic knowledge and skills – the level, indicated by a numerical rating, of reading, writing, math, and science required to perform each critical work function.

  • Employability knowledge and skills – the level (numerical rating) of “soft” or transferable skills, common to all occupations, required to perform each critical work function.

  • Occupational skills, knowledge and conditions – the technical skills and knowledge that are occupation-specific, and the tools, resources, and equipment, required to perform each key activity.

The occupational frameworks are composed of the same worker-oriented elements. The frameworks’ cross-cutting competencies are the equivalent of both the academic and the employability knowledge and skills. The level of each competency is also rated. However, the rating applies to the level of each competency required to perform all the functions across the occupation rather than each work function, as in skill standards. Definitions of the cross-cutting competencies can be found on DOL’s Competency Model Clearinghouse website. The scoring system used to evaluate the level of competency required in each cross cutting skill can be found on the Lumina Foundation’s Connecting Credentials Framework website. For these website links, see the Cross-Cutting Competencies section of each occupational framework. 

In the occupational framework, the equivalent to the standards’ occupational knowledge and skills is called related technical instruction. That element includes occupation-specific knowledge and skills, and the tools and technologies required to perform each job function rather than each key activity, as with skill standards. 

For a side-by-side comparison of the equivalent elements, see the Skill Standards to Occupational Equivalencies link on the Texas skill standards repository web page.

Importance to Texas

CNC set-up programmers–milling and turning work in the private sector in industries such as the automotive, aviation/aerospace, rail, ship, and heavy truck industries. These workers operate computer-controlled machines or robots to perform several machine functions on metal or plastic work pieces. They are critical to ensuring the smooth operation of the CNC controlled manufacturing equipment of their worksite. They help to ensure, through the work that they do, that industrial machinery and equipment is maintained at the highest possible level, ensuring the quality of the hardware they produce and the productivity and safety of the entire production team.  They also oversee Quality Assurance, verification, and inspection of equipment.

According to Texas Workforce Commission data, CNC set-up programmers–milling and turning are projected to grow 33.8 percent by the year 2026, and employ more than 2,200 Texas workers. The median annual wage in 2017, the latest data available, was $53,087.


On September 13, 2019, the CNC Set-Up Programmer–Milling and Turning competency-based occupational framework was recognized as skill standards in accordance with the Guidelines for the Development, Recognition and Usage of Skill Standards.