Community College Apprentices are Forging a Future in Manufacturing

In today’s world, education and job skills are essential to a successful career. However, many individuals need help to afford the cost of traditional college education, and others find it difficult to find the delicate balance between work and school.

This is where Norco College’s apprenticeship programs come in. With the Earn and Learn Apprenticeship program in Manufacturing Technology for Computer Numerical Control (CNC) Programming, students get a unique opportunity to gain valuable skills and experience in a highly sought-after field.

The Earn and Learn Apprenticeship program is an incredible opportunity for individuals who want to start a career in manufacturing. Through the program, students can learn the skills and even secure a job in the industry. The college’s partnership with Riverside-based Trademark Plastics, Inc. (TPI) is a testament to the quality of education provided by Norco College and the value placed on apprenticeships in the manufacturing industry.

CNC Programming at Norco College teaches students how to design and carry out the operations needed to make machined products that meet precise specifications. This is a specialized skill that is in high demand in the manufacturing industry. Throughout this program, students will learn how to operate and program CNC machines, which are used to produce a wide range of products, from automotive parts to medical devices.

TPI is an ISO 13485 certified company and is a leading manufacturer of plastic medical components for eight of the top 30 Medical Device Manufacturers around the world. Some of TPI’s resources include two class 8 cleanrooms and two controlled environment white rooms, which are dedicated solely to injection molding. TPI houses 52 machines in total in their spacious 100,000 square foot building for apprentices to practice and learn alongside professionals in the industry.

Two Norco College apprentices, Kathin Huizar and Joe Plaza, have thrived in the CNC program and are making waves in the manufacturing career field through their work at TPI. Both Huizar and Plaza began their journey at Norco College in Fall 2022 in a SolidWorks course. When they began their manufacturing pathway, little did they know that they would one day be work partners and friends.

Plaza notes that his passion for manufacturing began in a shop class while in high school. After graduating, he went on to obtain a degree in electrical and mechanical drafting. Plaza ended up in a position focusing on healthcare security for many years until he knew it was time for a career change.

Plaza says he was “cruising down Hamner Avenue” before “seeing a sign lit up, advertising the CNC program.” This sign was the Norco College marquee. A few days later, Plaza noticed the program advertised while scrolling on Facebook. These coincidences led Plaza to believe it was fate to enroll in the CNC program at Norco College.

With his background in healthcare, the new Norco student was familiar with many of the products being manufactured, but wasn’t aware of the process that went into making them. Plaza’s healthcare experience, along with the CNC courses and work at TPI, helped him spark a new perspective.

“I am seeing things from a different angle,” says the passionate student. “CNC is more than just operating a computer. We are learning to repair and make equipment that changes lives.”

For Huizar, his experience in finding Norco’s CNC Programming program was slightly different than his fellow classmate. Before deciding to enroll at Norco College, Huizar worked at a commercial transportation company for 15 years. After learning the transportation company was heading for closure, Huizar knew it was time to find another job. About two days later, he received the flyer in the mail for the Norco College CNC program. That’s when the headstrong student decided to take a chance and enroll in the program with zero experience — and the rest is history.

In February 2023, both Huizar and Plaza got the chance to assist the TPI showroom booth at MD&M West 2023, a notable medical device tradeshow, at the Anaheim Convention Center. With 1,400 exhibitors and 20,000 trade visitors, the event is one of the largest international marketplaces for medical device design and manufacturing. This tradeshow is the annual meeting place for decision-makers from leading medical technology companies.

For Huizar and Plaza, hosting their first tradeshow was an incredible opportunity. “To show your work and what you can do is awesome,” states Huizar. “We can reach new customers, make revenue, and find new partnerships.”

Robert Sinor, Tooling Manager for TPI and spearhead for the Norco College partnership, shares that TPI is currently restructuring, and describes that Huizar and Plaza’s presence at the company “chase away the black cloud.”

Sinor continues, “They bring fresh input. I love everything about Norco College.” The Tooling Manager is a Norco College alum himself. He began in the SolidWorks course after a career at Disney and graduating from Le Cordon Bleu. Now, Sinor manages the tool room at TPI and helps other apprentices find their way through the manufacturing industry.

TPI is committed to hiring Norco College manufacturing apprentices, which means that students who are enrolled in the CNC Programming program have a high chance of securing a job with the reputable company during classes and after course completion. This is an amazing opportunity for individuals who want to start a career in manufacturing and earn a salary while learning a valuable skillset.

“There are lots of opportunities to learn and have career advancement,” explains Plaza. “The apprenticeship program works. It is not going to be true; it is true.”

The proud Norco-alum encourages future and current students not to get discouraged, regardless of age. Plaza states, “Finish the courses. CNC is fun.”

He continues, “Trademark Plastics is very helpful. They make you feel at home. I feel like I have known them for years. Feels like family.”

If you would like to learn more about Norco’s Manufacturing Technology program, visit

If you would like to learn more about Trademark Plastics, Inc., contact Robert Sinor, Tooling Manager, at