View Full Version : Questions for Vocational Instructors

C. Tate
07-22-2003, 11:25 PM
I hired a recent graduate of the two year program at the local junior college. He was sold to me as the best in the class. However, he does not have the skill that was expected. I expected that he would be able to enter the shop and with minimal instruction operate a CNC turning center and after a short time make basic set ups.

What I got was a guy who can make parts as long as nothing goes wrong. When a diameter gets large or there is a Z offset problem he gets lost and cannot fix the problem. He ran 300 parts with an o.d. dimension of 2.317-2.319 and got them all rejected with the dimension running .002 over. He had micrometers which were properly calibrated and checked every piece. How does this happen? I instructed him to use manual lathe indicate each and skim to size. He never even got started because he could not figure out how to indicate them properly.

Do I expect too much?

07-22-2003, 11:54 PM
Best in his class only means he was less of a moron then his other classmates http://bbs.homeshopmachinist.net//biggrin.gif
We once hired a welder that was 1st in his class,he worked a couple of weeks,then asked me to show him how to run a verticle!He then procedes to setup for a weld,he trys to ark and nothing,checks his leads nothing,grinds not one but two bare spots nothing,checks the fuses to the machine nothing,he finally gets me and asks why is the machine not working-I say notice its quiet in here?Yep,he forgot to turn the machine on! http://bbs.homeshopmachinist.net//biggrin.gif
The moral of the story is,experience must be learned it can't be taught,maybe its time to inform him of a pay cut while he is trained.

07-23-2003, 01:15 AM

The question one must ask is not that "we ask for too much"

But rather it should be "How can this happen?"

Easy - PC pinheads in the wrong place ruining previously well grounded vocational program in favour of "shiney new computers". Our stupid school board have completely abandoned the industrial arts programs in favour of computer - because everyone knows that computers will rule the world and are therefore far more important than teaching someone to build them or maintain them. Jesus H. Murphey! When I was in high school they at least taught the knuckleheads (us) to pound nails, weld, do autobody, electronics, or automotives. Not everyone is going to be a doctor or lawyer (thank God) and needs to be taught something useful.

I blame the school boards and parents, not the teachers.

It also does not help that most kids these days don't give a rats ass about anything but booze, drugs, & sex. Again, I blame the parents. No discipline, using TV as a babysitter, letting them get away with murder.

07-23-2003, 06:24 AM
In school we only made single parts on the CNC,the biggest problem was getting the parts right,once it was you were finished,not just getting started.He also most probably used a three jaw chuck in the manual machine so as to get the part finished.The previous posts are right you don't get experience in school ,mostly theory.The old course at the school I went to was two years of six hours a day five days a week. Now it is maybe five hours a day four and a half days. There also was not any instruction on CNC,that was two years of manual instruction. Also this was FREE tuition,student paid for books and tools. Program funding has been cut 90%,other courses MAKE MORE MONEY.I DIDN"T KNOW SCHOOLS WERE FOR PROFIT!! It runs at least $300 a semester. And now they want to cut hours on program to where you learn how to turn on the machine.

Don Warner
07-23-2003, 10:10 AM
I remember wayback when trying to get a summer job in a small welding repair shop. The boss man asked me if I could cut with an oxy torch. Sure I said, and he hands me a black greasy 1" dia bar from under his desk, and says "go over there pointing to the to the oxytorch, and cut me off 4". 10 minutes later I still can't cut it. Needles to say I didn't get the job. Turns out the bar was a piece of old monel propeller shafting.
Don Warner

Doc Nickel
07-23-2003, 05:45 PM
Same thing happened in my high school welding class many a moon ago.

We'd all just been working with the oxy-a torch, and it was time to do our checks- you know, light it, set it, chop a chunk off a piece of scrap.

Usual cutting table, with the vertical bars, and a big pile of mungy scrap underneath. You grabbed some chunk, set it on the table, sliced off a section while the teacher (and the rest of us) watched.

Most of us did okay, 'til one kid grabbed a chunk, lit the torch, then spent about five minutes heating and heating the edge, trying to start the cut, sweating more and more... http://bbs.homeshopmachinist.net//smile.gif

Finally the teach, who'd seen what was wrong, thought he'd sweated enough, had a good laugh and told us there's more to a good cut than just setting the torch right. It was a chunk of stainless steel.

Teach gave 'im a chunk of regular plate and he cut fine.

We all make mistakes though... I was working on my old '66 BattleBarge the other day. Finally getting ready to move it under it's own power for the first time in several years.

Cleaned all the junk away, made sure all the fluids were up, checked the linkages, made sure the brakes were working.

Fired it up, put 'er into gear.


Tried another gear. Nothing. Checked the fluid again. Checked the linkage. Made sure the brakes weren't locked shut. Pulled hair out, started wondering if my hard-to-replace transaxle was smoked.

I'd neglected to bolt the flexplate to the torque converter.


G.A. Ewen
07-23-2003, 06:32 PM
The educational system hasn't figured out yet that you can't make a round peg fit a square hole. ( unless you've got a milling machine http://bbs.homeshopmachinist.net//biggrin.gif )
It doesn't give any consideration to the students natural abilities or lack there of. Some people can work with there hands and learn to understand machiniery and others who don't have the knack for it never will.
I agree with Thruds comments concerning the failure of most parents when it comes to the universal baby sitter. Whatever talent or natural abilities that a child is born with can be erased with a couple of years of TV.

07-23-2003, 06:39 PM
Yeah, on a related issue: last night a news program dealt with the explosive youth obesity issue, describing the increased use of surgical procedures to correct it. While the 'fast food' diet surely is a big factor, I remain convinced the sedentary lifestyle of many of today's youngsters is equally to blame. How many kids do you see riding bikes or running around playing cowboys & indians, and the like nowadays? Nope. Maybe an hour or so of soccer or little league, or something like that, which Mom or Dad drives them to. Rest of time is spent in front of a CRT of some sort, or chatting on their cell phone.

07-23-2003, 07:12 PM
C. Tate, give him a chance. Maybe you don't expect too much, but he's green. Show him what you want and how to get it done right for a few weeks. If he didn't have any snap to start with, you wouldn't/shouldn't have hired him. If he can't catch on, then say goodbye. Who knows, in 5 years he might be the best new employee you've had in 5 years!

07-23-2003, 09:01 PM
I have lot more college than most people, but when I was a poor young undergraduate in engineering, I had this professor who was tough as nails.

In surveying class, back before GPS and all of that new age stuff. We measured things with 100 foot chains and dumpy levels. My professor had been an Civil engineer and surveyor since the time of Moses.

One of the students after doing an angle from a good point to shoot that angle, said "Good Enough". My professor came unglued, he said either it's right or it's not. Wanted to see all of the calculations, this was before electronic pocket calculators, so the student handed him his surveyors book. The professor looked at al of the calculation and said they were correct. Then he proceeded to tell the student that the cost of being off one inch in downtown Manhattan was more then a million dollars in errors. The price was higher in Tokyo. So we did the work over again, came up with the same results.

You know we all passed the surveyors licensing exam on the first try. The funny thing, I know how to read a map, most kids today don't. I think I had some help with the Boy Scouts early in my life and then the Army.


07-23-2003, 09:25 PM
I wonder if the problem with the new guy might be that he's never had a demanding teacher like Jerry's old mentor. If there's one problem I see with my kid's education, it's that the teachers never criticize the students, fearing that feelings might be hurt.

I think C. Tate should help the new guy with some old-fashioned criticism (and direction). Then give him a chance to make it right.


07-23-2003, 11:11 PM
I once took a pipe welding test for a government contract in a local shipyard,it was a couple of 4"pipe coupons,I setup preped and welded the two in about 45 minutes,the whole time being picked on by three other kids who were laughing at how slow I was,the guy giving the test called us all back the next day,he informed them that I was the only one who passed and they should go home-the difference between me and them-I was taught the methodoligy behind what I was doing and they were not,weak foundation.

Shop class around here as well votech was until recently was a place to dump LD's and F---ups,there were a few good kids who went through and became good mechanics and machinists,the reason they made it was they had the ambition and the patience to learn on their own regardless of the capability of the teacher-in other words they were self starters-if you manage to get one keep them at all costs-even if two thirds of your net goes in their pocket they are worth it in time and customers saved.The amount of spare time for yourself will increase and life will get easier.

Now we don't have machine/mechanics shop in school anymore,we have something called tech prep and parts changer 101,they teach the kids to use a diagnostic computer and how to "shot gun" a car,not the theory or methodoligy behind what they are doing,no wonder it cost $200.00 to get your wiper blades changed now.

My grandpa was shocked at what they are teaching in auto shop now,when he was in the filling station/garage business they used to rebuild generators and starters on the spot,also water pumps,steering boxes,wheel bearings and the like,during the war they rebabbited rods,turned cranks,and ground cams,now if Auto Zonmbie ain't got it your screwed! http://bbs.homeshopmachinist.net//biggrin.gif

[This message has been edited by wierdscience (edited 07-23-2003).]

07-24-2003, 12:04 AM
Without giving excuses, seems a bit more training needed. Some shops run different and with different processes than others. Machine controls are different from one mahine to another, and general machine attachments are as varried as there are machines. Not to mention you have a kid with probably 700 hours training, which in real world experience is probably about 14 weeks of job experience, and figure the kids experience is probably varied to many machines and such.

You should have high expectations, no reason why not to have these. However, remember you also have a young kid who is probably nervous and such, probably trying too hard, and probably wants to do well. Did I also say "Nerves"?

I know it is hard, but have a bit of patience. The stories like you have here, I get all the time. Usually within the first month or two of a kid starting. However, with patience, and a bit of training by you, the kid will very likely leap over your expectations after a short time.

One of my former troops runs a major shop in the area now. 100 employees. Several are high up in their shops. The one I mention, given his first months performance, probably should have canned, but he had the drive so they took the chance. He now hires my students.

I always try to qualify the students and talk to employers before a student starts, and even have the kid come in and learn some specifics after the talk with the employer. This is, if the employer is willing to talk, and give the chance to do so.

Now, for a comment. I teach this stuff, and also do it for a living. learned via the apprentice method through a few jerks and such, but also took school shop, where i got a foundation in wood, metal, drafting, and such. Seems many were just "born" with this, or just happened by a machine and ran it perfectly? I do not see this too much on this page, this attitude, but sometimes..in a few cases....but I digress, and do not see this much.

BUT then again, in many situations, especially with my teaching, I have to remember this.... I am very sure each of you (I) started somewhere, made mistakes, had a person teach you something, probably missed a button or switch somewhere, goofed somewhere, had situation where confidence might have been a bit shaken, and hey I'll even bet many of you were young once and doing the first month as a real young guy in a new machining job with the older guys really trying to make you prove your worth....and I'll bet almost all of you fell over yourselves in their eyes, and many of your "later on" mentors probably thought you could not fight your way out of a rice paper bag? BUT the good mentors persist, and thus a future machinist is or was born, and thus becomes or became a mentor to other "snot nosed newbies".

I know I am not the only one who made mistakes, learned from them, did well with teaching and practice, am still learning, even now, can readily admit I do NOT know everything even after 27 years in the field as a machinist and teacher (17 years at that while still working), and now try my best with my students to teach them how NOT to make mistakes, and to keep thir eyes and ears open for more info. I can't judge the rest of the ED system, for I teach in my own little world without PC baggage, and with the constraints of the time, and the machinery at hand. Oh but if I owned the shop, and had 8 hours daily to teach, but alas, I do not, for I also have to contend with 27 other required courses, girlfriends, first cars, proms, the constant battles of puberty and young men, and the expectations that the student is required to pass the other 27 courses as well as mine.....

You see, I talk patience here, and remembering where you started. Also remembering that the trade takes years to learn, and sometimes what seems simple to us now after years of almost instinctive work and practice is still something to be learned and yet to become instinctive to the "new guy. When I teach something, I actually have to stop, and write it doen step by step for myself, least I by instinct and natural progression, just move quickly by a step. Kind of like swinging a ball bat, you can do it so easily, but to explain it????? You really have to think. The same goes for the newbie, thus many of my long and detailed explainations for the newbies on this page. Takes thought.

But back to the issue at hand. The guy is probably green, you probably have some different gear than a normal school has, the mic thing he should have got, but hey, have patience, for I believe it will pay off in profit with this kid faster than with almost any other new guy you have as his skills will hone faster, and his training will show through very soon.

07-24-2003, 12:19 AM
In Chris' defence - as a shop owner I am sure he has seen and heard every excuse known to man. I don't blame him, it can get pretty pathetic the way most people work and the piss poor attitude they seem to have towards the bosses financial well being when they constantly screw up and cost them thousands in lost time and materials.

I understand his frustration.

07-24-2003, 04:18 AM
Employers should evaluate a little better on their own. Some value should be given to aptitude and ingenuity and the ability to learn. Schools are often only in the business to extract money from students. Sometimes the ass-kissers can get grades that they otherwise don't deserve. They may be better suited to management positions http://bbs.homeshopmachinist.net//wink.gif
I was once asked to train a worker on a construction job. This man was in his twenties and he asked me to show him how to put a bit in a drill chuck. He had never used a hand drill. I was astounded that any person could live to that age without ever using a hand drill. I felt sorry for him. He was inept and lacked all the normal aptitudes to accomplish anything with his hands. I later met his brother who had all the mechanical aptitude that this guy didn't have. Still the first man became a professor of something or other and made lots of money and never sweated or got dirt under his nails ever again. Thats kind of ironic if you ask me. I guess everyone has a different idea of what "Knowledge" is. You should try to have people working for you who can think, because the future isn't always about applying the knowledge of the past. Books and schooling is one thing, but having a skilled mentor is another even more valuable thing. A mentor will teach you how to think, and sometimes how to improvise. I think that is more important because the future is about finding solutions to problems that possibly no one has ever had before.


07-24-2003, 10:02 PM
I heard someone say once that a master makes mistakes just like the apprentice,but the master knows how to fix them.

07-24-2003, 10:44 PM
A fellow that was showing me some machining technique told me that the trick was to make the mistake look like that how it was supposed to be.

07-25-2003, 12:48 AM
As many of you know from my previous posts, I teach "tech" in a school that has a slightly different outlook on what they want from the students than what Spope14 has.We use CNC, manual Mills, and Lathes, but are not trying to produce students that will become machinists. With that said, I still have many of the same conserns about my students. I agree with everything spope says and would like to second the "have Patience" approach.

Also I would like to suggest that you look at these new workers in another way. They should be an investment. Does this worker purposefully do these things or is he just green? Does he come to work on time? Does he get along with the other workers? Is he willing to fix his mistakes? Is he a team player? Does he understand if the boss doesn't make money, shortly he won't be either? Does he have the mental capacity to do the work? Even if your investment isn't paying off right now, with time, given the right answers to these questions, it will.

My feeling is if the kid is bright enough and has the desire to improve himself, he deserves a chance, and maybe a second and third chance too. He will improve. If there is one thing that I try to teach my students it is to be responsible for and take ownership of your actions. If you screw up, admit it, try to fix it, and try to keep from doing it again. And also be proud of your work. If you're not proud of your work, noone else will be either. If you do something good, show it off to those guys that are waiting for you to slip up, maybe one of them will take you under his wing and make things even better.

One last bit of ranting: I am in favor of vocational education, but I'm not in favor of the idea that we should expect that students who are wanting to enrole in these programs don't have brains and can't make it in other areas academically. The word vocational in many places is associated with "send the dumb kid to learn something with his hands, because we all know his hands don't connect to his brain." I hope this changes, and we start to value people who do manual labor such as machining and other trades as highly intelligent problem solvers. When this starts to happen things may change and the caliber of student we get in our trades and vocational schools will go up.

C. Tate
07-25-2003, 08:53 AM
I have no intentions of firing the guy at this point. His work ethic and habits are excellent. I just do not understand why they did not teach him to think. Hell a monkey can be taught to load and unload a machine and push the button. I need people who can think for themselves. From his explaination of school all they did was make a shaft and heat treat it. After that they would cut a thread then mill something and drill some holes in it. If they were real talented they got to use the surface grinder. No time during the class do they have to solve problems and apply critical thinking skills. Why? Because, as said earlier, vocational students ride the short bus to school (thats what many believe) and the teachers make less than people in industry (in Mississippi). We are headed down a road which leads to a society that is not self-sufficient. When we no longer have people capable building our tools or repairing our machines we will be at the mercy of countries like China and Mexico.

Ouch I fell off the soap box again

C. Tate

[This message has been edited by C. Tate (edited 07-25-2003).]

07-25-2003, 09:27 PM
Tate,what they did down here in Picayune was sell off the auto,metal,and woodshop from the local highschool and replace them with meaningless drivel.

The local community college still has a machineshop,but they hand the student a print and a piece of metal a say there's the machines and thats it.

Then there are the parents,mommy doesn't want her baby boy to get his hands dirty like those subhumans that work on her car,she wants him to be an engineer,doctor or lawyer(even if he doesn't want to)because hes the smartest boy in the world http://bbs.homeshopmachinist.net//biggrin.gif

Then you got industry who wants drones who work cheap.Then guidance councilers who send everybody to computer science or telecommunications(like we need more of those)

Then we have the public education system as a whole,that has let down another generation of students-makes me happy I chose to get out when I did.

07-26-2003, 01:54 AM
I am happiest when my hands are dirty, my machines are whirring away, chips are flying and I am making something. I wasted nearly twenty five years of my life being an engineer, before finding metal.


07-26-2003, 03:19 AM
I would be proud to ride any short bus to a shop class - beats walking 5 miles! My mother is a psychiatric nurse (no, I was not the cause...I think) and delt with kids with Downs syndrome. We lived next door to the home she worked in and I got to meet most of the kids. These kids are far nicer people that most "normal people" and do amazing work when given a chance. We have a few shelters here in Edmonton that make nice furniture and a blow molding plant all staffed by Downs affected young adults. They have heart, they love their jobs, they do good work. I wish I could say the same about many of the miscreants I have had the sorry dis-pleasure of working with.

If you get a smart one and they care, they are worth training in my books. It is quite possible that a raw recruit might be the best choice to keep and train. I like to rotate people so that everyone in the shop can do any job if short staffed (learned that the hard way) - plus variety keeps them more interested in the work I found.

I was reading in the latest MMS about the new self-teaching CNC grinders that some of the big shops are going to - a good machinist can train a willing person to run good jobs on the CNC grinders in a couple of hours. COOL!

07-26-2003, 05:24 AM
I don't belive you can learn this, or perhaps any, trade in a school enviroment.

I have taken trade courses on both sides of the Atlantic ocean, so I can compare USA to Sweden in this regard, and none are any better than the other!

I took a gunsmithing course i Denver,CO, and it was fun and educating, but it sure as hell didn't make me a gunmaker!! I also took a toolmaking course here in Sweden, but wasn't a toolmaker when I had finished!

Only hard work an experience can teach you a trade!

I continental Europe toolmakers train for several years before they get their diploma, and it is noteworthy that much of the training is done in a real shop, in a real buissness! Gunmakers have the same deal in Ferlach (Austria), of five years training at least two is in appreticeship. After this they must produce a masterpeice. And then they are "Beuchsenmachermeisters".

I don't really care much for diplomas myself, but nothing beats experience!

07-26-2003, 11:38 PM
My school teaches one of those Engineering programs.We have books, machine tools and computers. One of the many goals is to use project based learning to teach problem solving. Yes, It is very tough to get some young minds to think for themselves and solve problems. But they can be pushed in that direction. I constantly tell students that they are in a "Research" class. Not one that they are going to write a 15 page paper for (although sometimes they do) and hand it to the English teacher, but research in the sense that if they need to learn something new to solve a problem THEY are responsible for getting the information. I am a resource, but so is the library, Internet, machinists, and engineers as well as anyone with the expertise they need. Some kids get it and some kids don't. I rarely answer a question about their project designs directly, but try to point students to the right resources. Some of them hate this, but most of them will come back with additional information that neither of us thought of.

By the way, my analogy to investments wasn't to say you shouldn't cut him loose, but if he looked like he has potential hang on to him for a while.

I once took a group of kids in an Auto Tech class I was teaching to an alternator/starter rebuilder. Our tour guide was my best friend who I have known since 5th grade. One of the students in the class asked him what he was looking for in an employee. The response was "come to work on time every day, do a good job while you're here, and get along with the other employees." He would train them for everything else. On the way back to school, a different student asked me if I would give him a recommendation to go work there.The student had been through drug rehab a couple times, skipped my class numerous times, was behind in his school work, and generally not a trustworthy character. My response was: Do you remember me introducing the tour guide as a friend of mine?


07-27-2003, 05:20 PM
C. Tate. I am in an unusual situation for a Voc. Teacher in machining, lots of support, good industrial support, school admin support, and some good kids at least 70% of the time to strat, and by the time I am done with them 2 years after (sometimes 3), I have about 80% good troops, the not so good ones get real tired of me fast and drop out, so I kind of "fire them" in advance.

I can truly understand your complaint, and the complaint of others. Some say the trade can't be taught in scghools, also almost correct.

The school provides a place for early interest and some foundtion skills. I would say almost completely confident that out of the 160 and more students I have put out in 16 years that are still in local shops, probably 140 of them would NOT be there due to not knowing about machining, or from the bad press of the early 90's and the layoff in the J&L shops, Cones, Fellows, and most recently Bryants.

However, several small R&D shops spring up, and with the graying of the workforce, there are openings none the less.

I am up front with the employers on a students skill levels, weaknesses, and strengths. I am also very up front with the kids, and get them in shops often, and the employers tend to provide "problems" to work out for them.

I do NOT provide a toolmaker, some kids are still klutzes, some change their minds, most want to work, most work R&D type work as jobs. I always wish I had more time, or better yet, more "cooperative" employment experiences where the students can go out and see what the real world is like. I also stress going on to apprenticeships, additional training, and in all cases "KEEP YOUR EYES< EARS< AND MIND open" No school can correctly and completely replicate a shop environment for two reasins - time, and the simple fact that each shop is different. Machines varry between shops, and processes.

I am glad you are not firing this guy, and I actually appreciate your wanting him to do better. reading your posts from the start, you are the kind of guy I would want on my advisory committee, and one whom I would send students, you sound as I am absolutely sure you are, a real world no nonsense guy.

Glad to hear from you, hope this works out.

I also appreciate what Thrud says about frustration of profit losses. I have run profit loss jobs in the local shop for industry, took a loss four years ago because a kid was too lazy to use a depth mic, and bored holes in 20 parts .020 deep, thus loss on 10 sets of vise jaws - or the total profit line on the 100 set order we had to re-make. This was our only "loss" in 16 years, but the kids took it harder than I did (and I paid the loss personally out of pocket).

Good line for the forum, learned a lot.