Los Alamos National Labs with logo 2021

Machinist Apprentice Program

Sponsored by the Associate Directorate for Engineering and managed by the Prototype Fabrication Division

A competency-based apprenticeship

Los Alamos National Laboratory adopted a competency-based approach for training and qualifying its machinist apprentices. With this approach, the focus is on what the apprentice learned (or already knows), and not how long they spent in class or learning a skill.

Benefits to apprentice and employer

  • Allows the apprentice to move through the system at their own pace, with the focus of acquiring the needed skills and/or knowledge that they are lacking
  • Allows the apprentice to begin with a higher starting salary; because apprentices must hold a certificate of machine tool technology, they are not starting at the beginning of the pay scale
  • Ensures each graduate has the skills needed for employment as a journeyman machinist at Los Alamos National Laboratory

Minimum qualifications

  • Be at least 18 years of age
  • Have a high school diploma or General Equivalency Diploma (GED)
  • Hold a certificate of completion in machine tool technology from an accredited vocational institution
  • Have an interest in and aptitude for machining/mechanics
  • Have practical machine shop knowledge of mathematics to include trigonometry
  • Be eligible by Federal and State law to be employed
  • Meet security requirements as well as the physical requirements established by the Laboratory, to include the ability to obtain and maintain a Department of Energy Q security clearance
  • Pass a pre-employment drug screening and background investigation


On-the-job training

The apprentice works alongside qualified journeyman machinist instructors, with a ratio of one instructor to one apprentice. The majority of work experience is on actual Laboratory science and engineering products, with a focus of safety as the primary consideration.

In addition, each apprentice receives significant related instruction to ensure they have the needed knowledge to safely and successfully meet the objectives of the program. Training is a combination of live classroom training and web-delivered instruction.

National Institute for Metalworking Skills

Metalworking skills

The Los Alamos Machinist Apprentice Program adopted the performance objectives and qualification criteria developed by the National Institute for Metalworking Skills (NIMS).

In partnership with industry and trade associations, NIMS developed journeyman machinist skill and performance standards called "competencies."

Each apprentice must demonstrate skill in the NIMS and Laboratory performance objectives, and successfully complete NIMS theory and performance exams for each competency. With the completion of every competency, the apprentice receives industry recognized NIMS credentials. These credentials are owned by the apprentice and fully transferrable even if the Laboratory apprenticeship is not completed.

State certified

The Los Alamos National Laboratory Machinist Apprentice Program:

  • Meets the standards approved by the U.S. Department of Labor
  • Is approved by the New Mexico Apprenticeship Council
  • Is registered with the New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions/State Apprenticeship Agency (SAA)

Every apprentice is registered with the SAA at time of hire. Upon completion of the program requirements, each apprentice is submitted for a certificate of completion of apprenticeship.

The recruitment, selection, employment, and training of apprentices shall be without discrimination because of race, color, religion, national origin, or sex. Qualified veteran candidates are encouraged to apply.