The recent IMTS show pointed out several major education and skill training problems that affect all manufacturing companies and processors in the United States. The solutions the show offered are simple if school administrators and machine shops can address the problems with a uniform program.
For the past 10 years or so, high schools and community colleges—primary sources for skill training for the machine shop industry—have been decreasing the number of classes being taught. Therefore, many machine and job shops moved to regions where schools supported shop training. This caused an economic hardship on the town the company left and stabilized the town where the shop moved. Often the new areas were costly suburban areas, which tended to increase several plant operating expenses and personal living expenses for the owner and employees.
Jobs had to be outsourced because highly skilled employees required to run the new equipment were not coming through the traditional training and education channels. Trade associations and industry groups failed to demand the return of shop courses to the curriculum.
Schools did not hear from the industry; therefore, they did not purchase the latest equipment. As a result, few schools have CNC machines or updated teaching equipment.
Thanks to the Student Summit at IMTS this year, however, there was a new appreciation for the machining industry in the air. The show demonstrated that there are good jobs, plenty of jobs and better-than-average paying jobs in the machining industry if the applicant is skilled, trained and educated. These ideal applicants can step in and begin to work with a minimum amount of on-the-job training.
The Student Summit pointed out to administrators, instructors and students at the show that the days of the blue collar worker with sweat on his brow using heavy tools has disappeared. He has been replaced by a highly skilled technician with an arsenal of sophisticated electronic equipment.
To obtain these skills, community colleges often offer a flexible course schedule for working students. Machine shops can benefit from a program such as this because the company can train its supervisors and managers by sending them to school. Offering employees this option gives the company a well-trained and well-educated person who knows how to do his job correctly.
The first step in the process is contacting local high schools and community colleges and offering to help provide excellence in student shop programs. You can also help students acquire jobs by sending schools descriptions of possible positions that your shop may have available and include specific skills and education applicants will need before they apply. Also, having an internship position available would be an incentive for the school to participate in such programs with your company.
The Student Summit has begun a movement to bring machining back to our schools. Now the industry must help push it along.