We ought to provide immediately relevant training the best way we know how, today. Insisting on old school manual training just might be why we are short about a million workers in advanced manufacturing today.

Advanced manufacturer.

George Jetson, Advanced Manufacturing

What exactly is it that we are trying to accomplish with training? Getting competent employees to help us create and add value in our shops today.

Whenever I hear this topic discussed, the battle lines are drawn between those who insist that the applicant MUST have actually done manual machining with the lathe or bridgeport “so they can feel it.”

This argument seems pretty well established in industry, it is absolutely set in stone in Academia, where the faculty, their advisory boards and the administrators are all committed to the curricula, equipment, and instructors to teach whatever it is that they are already teaching.

Chances are,  the first thing that they are teaching is something that is manual and was produced in the mid-part of the last century…

“Ooooh! I get to learn manual machines first!’- Ya think?


I understand the desire to want everyone to have the same shared experience of “cutting metal.” Of learning the “fundamentals.” Of learning the craft the way “I did.”

But the way we learned may not just be an obstacle or difficulty to today’s students, it may be a barrier. A barrier so real, that they elect to go into another program.

Today, insisting that students learn the same way and the same stuff that we taught students in the 1950’s isn’t working.

Remember how well these worked?

Think about how we teach our own kids to cook. When you start to teach your kids to cook, do you take them outside and show them how to clear an area for a fire, build a fire ring, collect and chop tinder, kindling and firewood, light a fire, and then do the food prep?

Is that really relevant when all of us, even the unemployed, have  microwave ovens available in our homes, workplaces and sitting right next to the vending machines?

I’ll bet you start by showing your kid how to take the packaging off the food item, read the instruction for time and power, and then how to  push the buttons on the microwave to achieve that combination of time and temperature.

I push the buttons and my food is ready.

Imagine if every cooking class started with chopping wood, building the fire, killing and butchering the meat, etc., etc..

“The first thing you need to learn to cook , son is …”

I am not asking for us to lower our standards for professionalism, math literacy, or safety.

Is insisting on teaching them exactly the way that we taught Fred Flintstone back in the day the best way to teach people today- especially people who have always had access to computers, calculators and Microwave ovens? People who are practiced and comfortable at pushing the right buttons to get the right answer, to make the thing on the screen do what they want it to.

People who are comfortable pushing buttons to feed themselves.

The way I see it, we ought to provide immediately relevant training the best way we know how, today.

We have almost million jobs vacant  in advanced manufacturing today. And maybe, just maybe, it’s because when students see the medieval looking manual lathes and mills in the “machining lab” that they are going to have to endure, it just doesn’t seem to be worth it.

They see it is not a match. Why can’t we?

Your potential students say, “you’re kidding right?”

Actually they say something like “WTF- Cr8z Fred Flintstone cranky thing- im’ outta h3ar”  by punching keys on their ‘CNC Phone.’

I do think that manual machine operation is a “Gr8 skilz 2 has.”

But I think that maybe, just maybe, we ought to back fill into it, after our talented trainees have shown themselves and us just how well they can do pushing “buttonz” on the CNC.

Disclaimer: I learned to operate a manual lathe, Bridgeport knee mill, and toolroom grinder at Lorain County Community College.  I took a five day Brown and Sharpe set up class about 20 years ago and am confident I could get a ‘Brownie’ “damn near to print” in a couple of days… <LOL> I appreciate the insight into the machining process that my training gave me. But I ask is it the best and most relevant way to this vital task today?



Boy chopping wood