Does it get better?
I've been in the industry for 3 years, the last of which was as a setup/operator. Got out of college as the economy was starting to fail, and took some free CNC training through a local tech school. There I found my first great love. The time since has seen my skills growing by leaps and bounds. But there's one thing that disturbs me.
It seems that most people in the industry hate it, many companies are unwilling to train, and streamlined brutality rules the day. I understand that the point of a business is to make money, but is there really no room whatsoever for joy?
Am I simply not cut out for this? Does it get better? Is the only way I'll be able to work with people who love what they're doing is to start my own shop and hire them myself?
It never gets any better for you emotionally until you have learned to tell the "other guy" F.U. You will never rid the industry or life of the haters. Bean counters get in the way of profits and "trained" management types will always take the bean counter's word over the guy on the floor doing the work. This is what sets up the "us against them" dynamic.
Most guys running machines are not craftsmen. I think that is what you are looking for.
Even if you start your own business, you will still have to deal with the rest of industry on some level. Whether it is for buying machines, or tools, or selling your services to others. All you can do is make yourself the most knowledgeable and skilled possible and make yourself into the "go to" person for the answers and the work.
While I absolutely loved trade school, I HATED working in shops as a Machinist.
In trade school, you learned, got to make fun projects for yourself, and there was no time crunch. I built some fabulous parts for my car, a hydraulic press, some nice knock offs for my teachers ElCamino, made a set of rim inserts, steering wheel adapters, tooling for the trade etc..
In a shop, same parts over and over, always trying to beat the clock, little training, and parts that weren't something you designed and made. 5-10 years in the trade to make any money, and even then a sales guy selling whatever crap with no actual skills made twice what you do. I did it for years before i got out and went to the repair side. Not much better, but i like it better than machining.