A Wesleyan machinist in Pennsylvania is creating opportunities for underserved populations to develop high-value job skills in an environment that cares for their spiritual needs.
The community around Meadville, Pennsylvania, is highly dependent on the CNC (computer numerical control) machining industry, in which skilled employees program computer-run machines to produce materials used in the fabrication process for aerospace technology, medical equipment, car parts and dental equipment. CNC machines — including lathes, mills, grinders and other complex machinery — are used in a variety of manufacturing applications crucial to the Crawford County economy and infrastructure.
But as dependent as the community is upon CNC and its manufacturing applications, there is no existing training program for machinists in the Meadville area. Seeing this opportunity, Brian Piatt, a machinist who attends Oasis Church, felt called to start a machine shop, operating it as a ministry to serve those often overlooked in their community.
“In our area here, the workforce for skilled labor is very small and getting smaller,” said Brian. “The problem is that some companies aren’t doing apprenticeship programs like in years past. Also, young people are told trades and manufacturing are bad, they need to go to college to make a good living and that isn’t true.” Many individuals must “spend thousands of dollars to go to a trade school, and we don’t have a trade school close by anymore.”
Around the same time Brian was noticing the need in his community, he met some neighbors who were desiring a change in their life. One woman — a gas station employee in the throes of single parenting — shared her hope for a way to take classes for a better job but expressed her fear of taking on more debt to get those classes. “She said she was just surviving,” recalled Brian. “How can she take on another debt for student loans when she’s just surviving?”
As he began to consider these needs and pray for the neighbors he’d met, Brian began to feel a growing call to fill this need with a no-cost pathway for those seeking to build skills in machining.
After receiving this call, “Brian left his job in CNC machining, bought a couple machines and rented a space to start a business,” said Rev. Nate Alsdorf, church planter at Oasis Church in Meadville.
The new machine shop is called “Mission Machining.” While one side of the business will be a straightforward CNC machining company, another side will be a no-cost training program, guiding students through 12 weeks of courses that pair machining skills with discipleship conversations.
Brian’s vision is to create a training program accessible to those who often cannot take on traditional education. This might include recently released inmates, unhoused neighbors, veterans experiencing unemployment and others who need to gain training and avoid debt. “I hope the quality of the people we’re sending from this place will speak for itself,” Brian shared. “My hope is that people will see the quality of the work and integrity of the machinists we’re graduating, and that those people will ultimately be pillars for Christ in their work.”
“In a city that has its foundation built on CNC machining and tool and die, Brian and Mission Machining will be meeting a real tangible need in our community” reflected Rev. Alsdorf. “Brian’s heart is to empty the local men’s shelter and send folks into the industry as salt and light.”
As congregations continue to work toward creating systems that allow laity and clergy to collaborate, stories like Brian’s offer examples of creative ways Marketplace Multipliers can create space where holiness, justice and restoration intersect with business.
For more stories of ministry in the marketplace, visit marketplacemultipliers.com.
Rev. Ethan Linder is the pastor of discipleship at College Wesleyan Church in Marion, Indiana, and contributing editor at The Wesleyan Church’s Education and Clergy Development Division.