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Speaking of Precision is a knowledge preservation and thought leadership blog covering the precision machining industry, its materials and services. With over 36 years of hands on experience in steelmaking, manufacturing, quality, and management, Miles Free (Milo) Director of Industry Research and Technology at PMPA helps answer "How?" "With what?" and occasionally "Really?"

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Right Skills Now Launches Pilot Machinist Training Program

Posted November 01, 2011 9:00 AM by Milo

According to a Skills Gap study by the Manufacturing Institute, more than 80 percent of U.S. manufacturers can't find qualified people for the nearly 600,000 skilled production jobs that are currently unfilled.

For American manufacturing to be successful, employers need machinists that have the right skills, and they need those skills now. That is the impetus for a new, fast-track education initiative called Right Skills Now.

The program is an accelerated, 16-week training course for operators of precision machining equipment. It provides classroom and hands-on shop experience to prepare students for immediate employment. It also allows individuals to earn college credit and national industry certifications.

One of the founders of Right Skills Now is Darlene Miller, CEO and owner of Permac Industries in Burnsville, Minn. She helped launch the training program for CNC machinists in her home state. PMPA provides staff support to Ms. Miller's PCJC work. Miles Free, Director of Industry Research and Technology helped develop an initial outline of the curriculum to assure relevance to today's advanced manufacturing shops.

As a small business owner representing the manufacturing sector, Ms. Miller was asked to serve for two years on the President's Council for Jobs and Competitiveness. The Jobs Council is comprised of citizens chosen to provide non-partisan advice to the President to help foster economic growth, competitiveness, innovation and job creation.

According to Ms. Miller, the first time she met with President Obama, she was asked to talk about the economy as it related to manufacturing and small business. "One of the things I said to the President was, 'Not every student needs to go to college,' she says.

"He had recently made a speech saying that every student should go to college. But he later agreed that while not all students must go to college, they do need some educational training beyond high school.

"I told him that in the precision machining industry, we have an urgent need for skilled people," Ms. Miller continues. "We can't afford to take just anyone off the street, provide some training and then put that person in a machining job."

Despite the nation's high unemployment rate, attracting workers with machining skills has been difficult for small manufacturers. "Because of the recession, we're all strapped financially," Ms. Miller explains. "We need people that have math skills. Our equipment is very high-tech, and our customers expect zero ppm performance so we can't afford to hire someone that hasn't had technical training.

"It is critical that new hires have the necessary math and safety skills to understand and operate the machines," she adds. "There is so much more involved now than there was 10 years ago."

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#1

Re: Right Skills Now Launches Pilot Machinist Training Program

11/01/2011 10:59 PM

This was an issue for me over 25 years ago. Even more critical than CNC machinists are tool and die makers- the creative artists of the machining world. It seems that even higher-than-average wage offers won't always draw qualified candidates.

When I was in junior high school, more years ago than I care to admit, Shop Class was a required subject for boys. Mostly it focused on basic drafting skills and wood working, but those with an interest (and demonstrated aptitude, if one had a good instructor) could work in metal as well. After the first course, on through the end of high school, there were many "follow on" elective courses for those so inclined- everything from carpentry to machine shop to auto mechanics. Those students who followed that path had a good chance of landing well-paid jobs after graduating from high school.

I think one needs to offer such programs again- start at an early age. By the time they have graduated (or otherwise departed) high school, it may be too late to build the interest...

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#2

Re: Right Skills Now Launches Pilot Machinist Training Program

11/02/2011 12:40 AM

I find this note downright rude to the skilled trade. There happened to be a few tool and die makers among my friends. Two of them exceptional, european trained, if I may say so. The last couple of decades all of them had basic employment difficulties, which I gathered centered on not appreciating skill and their added value to the company, by their management. One or two are a fluke. A number, over decades, a trend. Then came the outsourcing to far east, cheap, and never mind the quality.

Destroying the skill systematically, and now they have the gall complaining?

Do that to your marriage and family, and see where that gets you.

To make it perfectly clear, I am not having disagreement with the exposition, rather with the long lingering problem ending like it is something new.

------------------------------------------------------

And I am not even one of the complainant. Imagine my salty language, if I am one, and see this.

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#3
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Re: Right Skills Now Launches Pilot Machinist Training Program

11/02/2011 5:44 AM

We drones are just a commodity
Del

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#5
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Re: Right Skills Now Launches Pilot Machinist Training Program

11/02/2011 8:29 AM

there's been a breakdown in the basic relationship

no short term money in loyalty

only today's profit matters

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#4

Re: Right Skills Now Launches Pilot Machinist Training Program

11/02/2011 8:08 AM

Hell, my dog can do CNC. Where's the guy with some math moxy (oh, I forgot, he's building apps).

Besides, aren't machinists considered to be low level lifeforms?

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#6

Re: Right Skills Now Launches Pilot Machinist Training Program

11/02/2011 10:31 AM

People have been complaining about the lack of skilled trades especially machinists for as long as I can remember. This program is actually doing something to change that.

Between 7000- 10,000 baby boomers will be retiring each day, taking their skills and knowledge with them. Training people to step in to take up some of that is another important consideration.

The Right Skills Now program does qualify people based on math skills needed.

I think that western culture has been stuck in a quagmire of thinking that all our wonderful sons and daughters are above average and ought to go to college. What parents are now waking up to is the fact that their son or daughter living in the basement who "earned" that degree in International Film Studies or Sociology or Art Appreciation is essentially unhireable in today's ecocnomy.


We are trying to create a way for math capable people to enter a very rewarding career in advanced manufacturing. Really hadn't thought that this would be worthy of derision by the group here.

Milo

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#7
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Re: Right Skills Now Launches Pilot Machinist Training Program

11/02/2011 10:35 AM

Hey Milo, I don't think that the derision is aimed at the program, more at the short sighted bean counters who got us in this mess by outsoucing and turning futher education into a 'product'.
My dystopian comment was hinting that 'they' are happy for us to buy into whatever is convenient for corporate proffit when it suits. They'll happilly sell us unhealthy food, mortgages we can't afford, pensions which evaporate. As long as we will buy what's on sale that's fine until there's a problem, then they'll tax the hide of us and expect us to re-train to bail 'em out of the mire.
Oh dear does it show that I've got a stinking cold?
And don't start me on the telecommunication gewgaws they dangle infront of us at give-away prices so they can then sell us airtime for extortionate fees.
I shall get back in line and march gullibly onwards towards the grinders and become Soylent Green!
Del
(maybe a nice cup of tea will lighten my mood)
<exits left humming the red flag>

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#11
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Re: Right Skills Now Launches Pilot Machinist Training Program

11/02/2011 12:03 PM

Del, We are on the same page about the suits who don't really see the "resources' in "human Resources."

I am troubled by the widespread (apparently) lack of critical thinking tha keeps us as lemmings reacting instead of as thinking individuals who have courage to make different choices than the herd. Thanks for your thoughtful response.

Milo

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#16
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Re: Right Skills Now Launches Pilot Machinist Training Program

11/02/2011 12:30 PM

Saw a good program on TV last night about a UK artist (the somewhat eccentric) Grayson Perry. He's doing an exhibition at the British Museum "Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman".
It was excellent, the end point is a big cast Iron funeral boat smothered in casts of various artifact from the museum. The exhibition is objects from the British Museum juxtaposed with some of his work... the clever thing is that it's not obvious which is which and it's easy to jump to the wrong conclusion.
The exhibition celebrates all those millenia of unknown craftsmen.
An that's where I think society has dropped the ball, we value money, celebrity, sprorts men and financiers more than craftsmen and artists.
Mrs Cat and I plan to visit the exhibition.
Despite his occasionally bonkers appearance Grayson Perry was extremely lucid skilled and compelling.
Del

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#8
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Re: Right Skills Now Launches Pilot Machinist Training Program

11/02/2011 11:01 AM

No derision intended Milo. I was merely treating a serious issue with deliberate and inappropriate humour. Facetious

I saw the trend you speak of years back and have been spouting off to anyone who would listen. The result has been anything from 'so what, it's blue collar' to 'the market dictates it's own rules'. The last from a business developer and financier whose myopia has now left him begging. This clown is left with an imported workforce which is semi-skilled at best and unable to make the next step forward. He had his chance. He blew it. And he's just one of many now left whining.

Personally I think your accomplishments in this field are of the caliber that will necessitate some serious thinkers to task.......hopefully those who have some vision.

Canadian mfg'ers also screwed up big time. When the $C was high was EXACTLY the moment to buy new machinery. They didn't.

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#12
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Re: Right Skills Now Launches Pilot Machinist Training Program

11/02/2011 12:05 PM

Thank you Duckie. It is a shame we lack a sarcasm font...

You are correct that in addition to trying to minimize payment to talent, a lot of companies missed their chance on the currency angle. Leaving the entire enterprise to suffer...

Milo

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#21
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Re: Right Skills Now Launches Pilot Machinist Training Program

11/02/2011 2:27 PM

Another meltdown in the financial district..........Jon Corzines' MF Global....worlds' biggest futures and derivatives trader.

It's getting downright freaky.

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#23
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Re: Right Skills Now Launches Pilot Machinist Training Program

11/02/2011 2:57 PM

Corzine was a gambler not an investor.

Big bets on high interest European bonds.

Can we spell Duh-uhh?

Milo

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#24
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Re: Right Skills Now Launches Pilot Machinist Training Program

11/02/2011 5:40 PM

Yah incredulously dumb......... bought $7 billion in Euro debt for $1 billion MF funds. At the upper most he could have earned $600 million. All gone now....

Heard rumour he was to be next treasurer..........

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#9
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Re: Right Skills Now Launches Pilot Machinist Training Program

11/02/2011 11:15 AM

I hope you can find meaningful support from the government

do you think there are any other root causes than the ones you have already mentioned?

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#13
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Re: Right Skills Now Launches Pilot Machinist Training Program

11/02/2011 12:12 PM

I think Anonymous Poster below hits it with their comment that kids don't get to see Machinists or Engineers even during their formative years. I used to visit classrooms and had an NSF fellowship to collaborate with an elementary school teacher once to bring Science and Engineering to the classroom. Intel is spearheading a program to boost engineering student retention, and their marketing folks are taking a hard look at what it will take to make "engineering cool" in our culture again. I'll share more on this as it develops.

The loss of Shop classes in most schools, and the active "guidance" of telling students to stay in college prep rather than vocational classes (so the home school can keep the student's tax funding) is another perverse reason why "Johnny don't know how to make stuff."

Milo

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#19
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Re: Right Skills Now Launches Pilot Machinist Training Program

11/02/2011 1:01 PM

"Meaningful support from the government" is an oxymoron.

As soon as the government gets their hands on it, they will turn it into a social welfare program, more concerned with turning dollars over to the disadvantaged that actually training anyone for real work or providing a viable labor force for industry...

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#20
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Re: Right Skills Now Launches Pilot Machinist Training Program

11/02/2011 2:20 PM

government support is probably the wrong way to put it

money always goes to where the advantage is

the advantage at present is to spend tomorrow's money today[credit]

take the profit out today

there is very little incentive manufacture onshore & invest in R&D

like it or not laws & regulation do much to determine the winners & losers

skilled machinists & engineers are in much the same boat

too expensive to keep on staff fulltime

I think it's fun to try to turn out 50 or so parts within reasonable tolerances, formulating a process, probably a bit of fixturing

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#22
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Re: Right Skills Now Launches Pilot Machinist Training Program

11/02/2011 2:48 PM

Fixturing is an art unto itself! When I mill something, I generally spend more time producing the fixture than the actual part...

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#10

Re: Right Skills Now Launches Pilot Machinist Training Program

11/02/2011 11:53 AM

A couple of other facets to this problem...

How often are children exposed to the career of machinist? Ever seen a sitcom or drama show on TV about them? (I have that complaint about a lot of careers.) And school trips? Do they ever visit a machine shop? Most kids don't even know machinists exist, unless they have the bug to work on cars.

Secondly, depending on where you work, the machining can be monotonous, leading some to either switch fields or retire earlier than they might have. I have worked around machinists that mostly do R & D type machining. The ones I've talked to about it say it's more interesting and challenging to build new stuff all the time. They usually came from industrial jobs into academic settings. But I worked at a small instrumentation company for 11 years and the machinists that worked there had the same thing to say. The parts they were asked to build sometimes required complex operations. There is an art to what they do. CNC is not so much an art, it's mostly programming. Sure, you still have to know how to machine, but the hands-on feeling goes away. And it could be that more modern machinists don't actually get enough hands-on time to understand the best way to do CNC.

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#14
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Re: Right Skills Now Launches Pilot Machinist Training Program

11/02/2011 12:12 PM

Good point AP1!

Milo

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#15
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Re: Right Skills Now Launches Pilot Machinist Training Program

11/02/2011 12:27 PM

Thanks, Milo. Unfortunately, the same observations can be made about other "artful" trades. I do hope there will always be a few who will learn from those who really know a lot, so these skills don't completely disappear. Many of them, though, will, sadly, take their hard earned (and valuable) knowledge to their graves.

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#17
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Re: Right Skills Now Launches Pilot Machinist Training Program

11/02/2011 12:56 PM

Anonymous 1-

Exactly the sort of point I was making about offering shop class in junior high school. If these kids don't know what the options are, how can one expect them to chose?

I agree with others- CNC is not the same as hands-on. I am one of those rare types that like to go down to the shop and turn something out on the lathe or mill (not artist class by a long shot). I use it as stress-relieving therapy- probably could never make a living at it though.

Anyway, the difference between CNC machining and real hands-on work is night and day- that's why I make a distinction between a "tool and die" maker and a modern machinist. Both need basic math skills, but the hands-on machinist needs a "feel" for his materials and tools- something that only comes with years of experience...

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#25
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Re: Right Skills Now Launches Pilot Machinist Training Program

11/03/2011 2:46 PM

Yes. At the same company I mentioned, we had a German exchange student who talked about how "shop" was very much a part of his education. He said that for two(!) years, students used only hand tools to fashion projects. He said it was to develop a "feel" for the materials. Gives some insight into the famed German engineering excellence.

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#26
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Re: Right Skills Now Launches Pilot Machinist Training Program

11/03/2011 7:40 PM

I've heard this too, from a german toolmaker.

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#18

Re: Right Skills Now Launches Pilot Machinist Training Program

11/02/2011 12:59 PM

In a long life I was dragged thru a number of fads as an engineer in R&D. One takes the cake. For a few years we, with the rest of the companies were put thru the exercises of "Zero Based Budgeting". Our budget was largely fixed by its very nature. The beancounters heaped abuse, that we mess up their nice charts. Then one day, all that went away. Survived another fad.

The late great economist Milton Friedman startled his colleagues in a round table discussion, that economic thinking is ruled for 2 generations by professor XYZ from Harvard. Consternation. Then one comes up with one name at Georgetown Uni. Friedman: Whose student was he? Oops. XYZ's. Inbreeding leads to synchronous thinking and easy fad generation. Let's not even start on business schools.

Those willing to recognize it, and go against the stream, may benefit from it. Foresight matters too, as in the much discussed rare earth mining. Or more exactly, the lack of it.

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