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Are there overseas opportunities for machinists?

erik_r123

Plastic
Joined
Apr 2, 2024
Location
PNW
Hello everyone, I am currently based in Oregon pursuing a 2 year Associates in machining. I'm expecting to graduate in the Spring of 2025 when I'll be 21. I'm also fairly skilled in Chinese and Spanish, and I have natural ability with languages so that I'm not concerned about. In addition I have fairly good welding skills and will be likely pursuing some AWS certifications to supplement my machining certifications.

I've always been interested in working overseas, especially Asia and Latin America. However, this is semi-difficult due to not many jobs being able to work overseas, especially for immigrating permanently to other countries especially in Asia. I'd love to work and live somewhere like Japan or Korea, as well as Southeast Asia. Almost anywhere in Latin America would be good too.

That all aside, are there any ways for a machinist to work and live overseas and travel for work and also eventually be able to permanently immigrate or expatriate. Also, are there any specific niches within the machining field like being a millwright or specialized machinist that could allow me to travel almost anywhere?

Two more, if anyone has done this what was the plan they laid out for themselves, and also are there any specific classes or certifications that will augment my resume that maybe are difficult to find for employers? It can be things outside of trades too.

I've also considered pursuing a further apprenticeship after school in something related or different.

Thank you.
 
There is work for machinists overseas with caveats. Latin America and Asia are known for being low cost ,not a term used with expat's. These places will generally hire a local due to cost. In my experience the trades that are the most portable are related to working on high end, safety critical or expensive gear, diesel mechanics, welders and electrical/electronic/automation. Lots of mines have overseas workshops in places that are extremely difficult to get work in and out of this also means that the roads and creature comforts are not particularly good. The life on remote sites can be fun but comes with it's challenges, you'll need good discipline to make sure you don't end up as the old guy sitting in the corner of a backwater bar with no teeth and Eurasian kids spread across 10 countries.

The best training for this type of work in my opinion is the military. You learn how to work in small teams with some dodgy individuals working in some sketchy situations. Although with the modern outsourcing model who knows if anyone ever actually works on the gear now.
 
If you had more experience, you could leverage your Chinese skills to be a liason between a (owned or contracted) Chinese machine shop and a western company, but they probably won't let you actually turn handles, and they would only want to pay you local wages if they do.

If you had some experience and capital, you could open a machine shop in an asian country, staff it locally and supply western customers, but most countries want you to invest hundreds of thousands of dollars to get the licenses and approval to do that. Vietnam is the hot destination right now.

Other than language and cultural fluency, what do you have to offer that a local 21 year old from a technical school doesn't? We're not magically better machinists because we're paler.
 
For instance ,say you got a job in Oz at $40 /hr ,which is an average for a machinist.........that translates to $26 US.......burger flipping pay in the USof A.
 
To earn the big bucks you need to either work in dangerous or very uncomfortable places, they don't offer the money for nothing. Asia on a expat salary means you put more in your pocket because of the cost of living. The best gig will be working for a multi-national on top wages with hardship benefits in a cheap cost of living location.
 
Also, are there any specific niches within the machining field like being a millwright or specialized machinist that could allow me to travel almost anywhere?
Field machining and welding are highly sought after skills when repairing power plants and steam turbines all over the world. Siemens Energy is one company that sends US based people to wherever the work is needed. Mitsubishi Power is another company. Not a job for the faint of heart though but the pay is there. Gotta put up with working 7/12s on a regular basis. My buddy said one of the welders who is in his early 20s made north of $200k last year.
 
Kind of a reverse example, but I worked at a company who bought Austrian supplied tooling. Whenever we bought a tool, they'd send out a handful of "specialists" to dial it in and get it running to contracted speeds. 2 of the specialists were salesman, and the other 2 were machinists. The salesman would fly home as soon as their carton of Marlboro Reds were used up, and the machinists usually stuck around for 3 cartons. Another guy we'd contract lived in Japan, worked in Washington/Texas for 7 months doing work for companies there, then freelance for 3 months, and then the other 2 months were spent in Japan.

What I'm getting at is depending on the industry you're in, there may be travelling involved. If you're wanting to travel, it's doable depending on the customer base.
 
If just want to travel, look up working holiday visas, they are easily available in most countries for 18-30yo. The classic winter job for that is to work at a ski resort, I can highly recommend Niseko in Japan. Most hire on around November in the northern hemisphere. If you want a slightly more techical job look for snowmaking or lift maintenance, but anything will do as you'll probably be drinking and chasing australian girls around all night. Repeat for the summer by going to the southern hemisphere or taking some equivalent summer job.

Travel to a few countries, learn the lay of the land. Once you've met people its easier to get back into a country on a different visa type if you want to come back.
 
Field machining and welding are highly sought after skills when repairing power plants and steam turbines all over the world. Siemens Energy is one company that sends US based people to wherever the work is needed. Mitsubishi Power is another company. Not a job for the faint of heart though but the pay is there. Gotta put up with working 7/12s on a regular basis. My buddy said one of the welders who is in his early 20s made north of $200k last year.
Spent my career in power both O&M and new construction. Its good work but man did I get bored of it after awhile.
 
I know many millwrights that travel the world installing various mining, sawmill, or even cnc machines. None of them are machinist.
 
The young guys at the sandblasters used to get $100+ /hr at the refinery for confined space........I was maintenance machinist and didnt get half that ........... I wasnt a "Golden One"........young football jocks who mostly couldnt read or write......i had to put up with these morons wrecking stuff they didnt have a clue about................Anyhoo,the refinery closed and went to India ..........I bet there aint no high pays any more.
 
A decade or so ago Crowley was looking for Rolligon drivers in Prudhoe. It was like $150k a year for 6 months of work. You just drive a Rolligon 8 on, 8 off, for days on end and standby to drive the next one.

The catch is you have to be the ultimate Mcgyver. You have to be able to fix anything and solve whatever disaster pops up in the middle of nowhere at -60 degrees while fending off polar bears (no guns allowed) or you and the other driver are dead and the load never makes it. I was flattered to be head hunted for the job, but said no thank you.

If you are great with language figure out how to speak polar bear and you could name your price up north.
 
With your language skills and such have you considered looking at some of the aviation/aerospace companies in that part of the country?
Might also consider discussing your future with a representive of the U.S. military or other agency.
 








 
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