Barton goes from corporate to hands-on

Amy Barton is petite. She doesn’t look like someone who has apprehended shoplifters, made store managers nervous with her forensic audits, or has driven an 18-wheeler over a million miles.

But she’s done all that. Like Johnny Cash, she could sing “I’ve been everywhere, man,” but now she’s ready for something completely different.

As she sits in front of her computer in her Concord home, the mother of two grown children calls herself “a research nut,” and explains that her husband, Larry Barton, is approaching retirement.

Since he is several years older, Amy said that now is the perfect time for her to return to work full-time as a machinist, allowing her attention to detail to pay off in the pocketbook. It will help ease his transition into retirement, and provide an opportunity to play lots of golf.

Barton worked for Sears in loss prevention for a couple of years, then advanced to Sears Corporate Dealer Store Organ-ization. She was a regional manager of business process and compliance with a four-state territory. She performed two-to-three-day audits verifying cash, operational procedures and identifying defalcation, and trained store managers and staff as well.

“The travel was long, away every week — it consumed my life,” she said. “I’m now married to the love of my life and I want a better work-life balance.”

For the last 16 months, Barton has been reinventing herself. She has chosen a completely new career … machine tool technology. Instead of working with columns of figures or investigating theft, she’ll be using giant lathes and mill machines.

Barton said she heard about a new program for adults in 2015, “Tennessee Reconnect,” part of Gov. Bill Haslam’s “Drive to 55.”

“I was attracted to machine tool technology because I’m a detail-oriented person,” she said. “Knoxville’s industry expansion has created a need for machinists and the employment outlook is promising.”

In late 2015, Barton enrolled in Tennessee College of Applied Technology – Knoxville’s Machine Tool Technology program as a full-time night student, 3:30 to 10:30 p.m. She has learned to use 16 machines, including lathes, mills, grinders, saws, sand blaster and a vertical milling center.

Barton is due to graduate in the next few months and is exploring local opportunities.

“There will be much less travel,” she said. “I’ll be home most every night. I enjoy the attention to detail required. The challenge affords me a great sense of accomplishment.”