Shawn Talley: A Machinist Working to Help Combat COVID-19

shawn talley works as a machinist making face masks to help combat covid-19

Shawn Talley took the CNC Machinist course at RCC’s Workforce Development and now works as a machinist making face masks to help combat COVID-19.


by Jennifer Rose Bryant

After graduating from Lancaster High School (Lancaster, Virginia) in 2013, Shawn Talley began attending Virginia Tech in pursuit of a mechanical engineering degree. As a freshman, Shawn realized it was all a bit too much, too soon. He returned home and began looking at the options available in his familiar environment.

Undecided about whether to take academic courses at Rappahannock Community College or pursue a trade, Talley signed up for a Computer Numerical Controlled (CNC) Machinist Operator course through RCC’s Workforce and Community Development Center. A CNC machinist operator cuts, grinds and drills into metals, plastics and other materials with precision. The technical nature — combined with the design aspect of this type of work — appealed to Talley and he was eager to get to work in the field.   

Talley says, “RCC Workforce is a good way to get an idea of what jobs are available in the area.” Marjorie Lampkin, career and transition services coordinator, assisted Talley with each step of the process. The cost-effective and comprehensive course, offered in partnership with the National Institute for Metalworking Skills, prepared Talley to embark on an in-demand career as a machinist in about two months.

Immediately after completing the course, Talley was offered a position with Seigler Reels (formerly Truth Reels) where he received hands-on training and became an employee in 2015 as a level 1 CNC Milling and Turning Operator. Working under a seasoned machinist, Talley became a certified CNC Machinist. With several years of practical machinist experience, Talley was hired by Turn Dynamics, a machining manufacturer in Kilmarnock where he’s employed. Some of the interesting items he’s had a hand in making include Seigler fishing reel parts, pressure valves for dental equipment, and a part called a “stand-off” for bulletproof glass in military vehicles.

Making Masks to Help Fight COVID-19

This year, a shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE), due to the COVID-19 pandemic, is affecting the entire world. Many businesses have reconfigured their production lines to make much needed supplies, and Turn Dynamics is one of them. Talley and the Turn Dynamics crew began making face shields and ear guards to meet local demand for places such as Rappahannock General Hospital, Rappahannock Westminster-Canterbury and The Orchard. Talley says they are still producing some of the more typical items, but that much of their production is currently dedicated to PPE. Shawn says they can make about six face shields and 22 ear straps per day.

Talley says, “It feels good to know that the skills I’ve learned have made it possible for me to give aid to those in need during these troubled times.”

Thank you, Shawn!

Find out more about Workforce Development and explore rewarding and in-demand career paths like Shawn did.

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