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  • Lack of machinists

    Our local Model engineering club was given a tour of a local machine shop recently. It was very interesting. Most of there work is CNC (some on 9 axis machines down to 0.0002" tolerence) of small production runs. They do some manual work but the manager was saying that it is very hard to find good experience manual machinists anymore. The ones he can get just don't have the knowledge and skills that the older guys did and now has to send work like sharpening drills and cutters or making custom shaped cutters, routine work for a machinist in the olden times, out to specialized shops even though they have all the necessary equipment on site. The manager used to work in a tool and die shop and did this himself in the past. The shop does not have any apprentices and won't have because the manager says they can't afford them. He probably can but the hit to the bottom line would affect his standing with the owner IE: his salary.

    If the lack of skilled men is a problem and he does not wish to help solve the problem by having the knowledge of his skilled people passed on, then why does he think he has the right to bitch about it in the first place. This seems to be a common situation these days and the chief instigators of this situation are the companies, big and small, that are causing it.

    It may very well be that in the near future us amateurs may be the only ones left with this kind on knowledge.

    Just sayin'. Rant off.
    Last edited by loose nut; 01-29-2015, 09:59 AM.
    The shortest distance between two points is a circle of infinite diameter.

    Bluewater Model Engineering Society at https://sites.google.com/site/bluewatermes/

    Southwestern Ontario. Canada

  • #2
    When I announced my intention to retire a couple of years ago I was expecting to see someone hired to take my job, when this did not happen I asked what they were waiting on,I was told they could not find any one they wanted to hire. I would say this situation is only going to get worse as time goes on.

    frankie

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    • #3
      Maybe 10 or 20 years ago Des Moines IA area used to have a great machine shop program at Tech High along with other high schools in the area. After all this is farm country, we had John Deere, Massey Ferguson and a lot more around. The know all, see all school boards saw a lot of money being used to maintain those shops. They decided everyone needed to go to college and after all to teach an English class you just needed a teacher and a open classroom. So they sold off the school shops.

      Fast forward to today, the kids who did not go to college are now working at Mc Donald's for $7.25 and living in mom and dads basement complaining they can't get a good job.
      Thank goodness the local Community College has an excellent machine shop program, but the kids are clueless about the jobs. They could find out, but laziness and mom and dad supporting them, are just a couple reasons they don't.
      Retired - Journeyman Refrigeration Pipefitter - Master Electrician - Fine Line Automation CNC 4x4 Router

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      • #4
        You hit the nail on the head.
        However ----
        One of the problems with technology, is the loss of skills
        Without change, the status quo keeps the skills constant.
        Witness the old days with Black Smiths .
        You could find more than one person in every town who could make horse shoes.
        So the skills that are lost are those "no longer needed"
        To me , the most valuable machinist is not a "Tool and Die Maker"
        The most valuable ( and one I tell youngsters this all the time) is to become a maintenance machinist and he will never suffer unemployment.
        They are the highest paid and the last to go. What is a Maintenance Machinist ( for those unfamiliar with the term )?
        They are the guys who can work without prints. They know how to fix machine tools as well as make parts using any piece of equipment. They are the innovators for improving shop problems and keep machines running. They can do manual and CNC .
        They don't get laid off, because they can keep everything running in the shop.
        They are like hen's teeth, rare.

        Many home shop machinists are maintenance machinists by proxy.
        You fix your lathe or mill....making your own parts if needed.
        You can make parts without drawings and understand fits, tolerances, metals, processes etc.

        The world will morn the loss of these skills as it moves on to the 3D printers to make parts in the future and obsolesce of machine tools becomes apparent.

        Rich
        Green Bay, WI

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        • #5
          Oh yeah, this is seen all the time.


          "WE CAN'T FIND OR KEEP SKILLED PEOPLE!!!!!!"


          Will you train up from within? ---- No! Too time consuming, we have projects that need completed now!
          Will you pay to intensively train outside? ---- No! Too expensive!
          Will you offer enough pay to draw someone that already knows it all from somewhere else? ---- No! Too expensive!


          Well, then shut up already. That about covers the ways your going to get people skilled in XYZ thing you need.
          Last edited by photomankc; 01-28-2015, 12:31 PM.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by photomankc View Post
            Oh yeah, this is seen all the time.


            "WE CAN'T FIND OR KEEP SKILLED PEOPLE!!!!!!"


            Will you train up from within? ---- No! Too time consuming, we have projects that need completed now!
            Will you pay to intensively train outside? ---- No! Too expensive!
            Will you offer enough pay to draw someone that already knows it all from somewhere else? ---- No! Too expensive!


            Well, then shut up already. That about covers the ways your going to get people skilled in XYZ thing you need.
            This is a sore spot with me as well. There have been a lot of news stories lately, with a lot of shop owners crying about how they can’t get skilled people to work. Yet, as I look around at the jobs being offered I see the wages have not changed in 20 years (though the benefits have declined).

            The work environment hasn’t improved much either. To keep up with orders without increasing the workforce, one shop around the corner from me has been on mandatory seven day weeks, 12 hours a day, for about a year and a half. Can’t say as I would blame a high schooler for not wanting to jump right into that.
            George
            Traverse City, MI

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            • #7
              How many people? If there's like 50, then they have no financial excuse, but if its 5, yeah, I can see not having apprentice.

              Another novelty is in this state an apprenticeship involves contracts I think with the state dept of labor, something weird like that, so if you figure you'll be out of business or moved to China by next year before an apprenticeship could complete...

              Another problem is in the computer industry in general the execs will cry like babies until they go into dehydration about a lack of employees but the real problem is they have champagne and caviar tastes on a PBR and McNugget salary budget. Go ahead boys try paying more than McDonalds then maybe you'll get some qualified applicants.

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              • #8
                I am really glad that I grew up in an era when businesses trained their people to match the expected work. I effectively worked in 5 or 6 fields during my 25 years with AT&T. Too bad they don't do that any more.

                As a software consultant, I worked with a lot of big companies, and it's amazing how often I heard a manager lament that "I can't find a qualified person willing to take the job at market rates!".

                Dan
                At the end of the project, there is a profound difference between spare parts and extra parts.

                Location: SF East Bay.

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                • #9
                  A friend of mine was telling me a year or so ago that his biggest problem is finding people with skills to work at his shop. I asked him if he had talked to he high school or the regional tech center about training. He is too busy for that kind of stuff. What would he expect.

                  I ran into a guy last fall on vacation who had a fairly large shop in Iowa. He owns it with a couple of his brothers. He told me that he regularly speaks at high schools about opportunities in the tool and die trade and said he has had many people hire in from his efforts.

                  Brian
                  OPEN EYES, OPEN EARS, OPEN MIND

                  THINK HARDER

                  BETTER TO HAVE TOOLS YOU DON'T NEED THAN TO NEED TOOLS YOU DON'T HAVE

                  MY NAME IS BRIAN AND I AM A TOOLOHOLIC

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                  • #10
                    In my opinion the oft repeated claim of too few trained people is a manufactured idea used to disguise the unspoken part, "affordable trained people" and is justification for importing cheap labor. I worked in very high tech in the heart of Seattle's high tech bread basket. We had no shortage of qualified people available and willing, but other countries provided the unspoken affordable element. This was especially obvious when at the end of the day one stands across from the bus terminal and looks at the expanse of foreign born people waiting to catch the interurban. Race has no part in this and I don't want to read any racist crap here - it is all about economics and the industrial complex that is driving government policy that penalizing our children. Add to that an education system that has abandoned industrial education and you have a self-fulfilling problem.

                    http://www.flcdatacenter.com/CaseH1B.aspx

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by danlb View Post
                      ......

                      snip:
                      "I can't find a qualified person willing to take the job at market rates!".

                      Dan

                      My next response to that lament is generally (in my best Inigo Montoya voice): "Market rates, you keep using those words. I do not think they mean what you think they mean."

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by danlb View Post
                        I am really glad that I grew up in an era when businesses trained their people to match the expected work. I effectively worked in 5 or 6 fields during my 25 years with AT&T. Too bad they don't do that any more.

                        As a software consultant, I worked with a lot of big companies, and it's amazing how often I heard a manager lament that "I can't find a qualified person willing to take the job at market rates!".

                        Dan

                        I presented my little autonomous mobile robot to an elementary school class and of course the robot was attraction #1, but the next most interesting topic to them was the parts of the robot after learning they could not buy any of them? How did I make all those pieces myself? Where did I learn how to do it? I told them that maintaining automation is the future. If your job is to move this thing, from over here to, to over there, then your days are already numbered. However knowing how to repair the things that move stuff around is a skill that is unlikely to face automation or extinction.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by George Bulliss View Post
                          This is a sore spot with me as well. There have been a lot of news stories lately, with a lot of shop owners crying about how they can’t get skilled people to work. Yet, as I look around at the jobs being offered I see the wages have not changed in 20 years (though the benefits have declined).
                          This. Exactly. Inflation has made everything required to live (Food, housing, transportation) cost 2x more yet somehow wages have not gone up since I was a kid.
                          Play Brutal Nature, Black Moons free to play highly realistic voxel sandbox game.

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                          • #14
                            Its not just mechanical trades. I have been given a threat of take a massive paycut or be gone in 6 months. My manager has told me he knows it will result in a loss of skill and knowledge and represents a financial risk of many times our cost to the business as the team I am in are the only people with our skills and knowledge in the company (and I know the other two guys won't stay on those terms also), but HR has told everyone company wide they have to cut costs by 20% per annum which we've achieved through increased automation and taking on more work in the previous 4 years but now there's no slack left to cut. To be honest its time for pastures new anyway so its a relief to be given the chance to walk without having to have that talk with my wife & I've seen so many people finished while doing core functions and the resultant mess when nobody has picked up the slack its only a matter of time before a major incident occurs. At the same time, the HR dept & upper and middle management now outnumber the workers who actually do things by a considerable factor.
                            Same company has been crying in the newspaper about how the visa controls need to be opened up to allow more workers because they cannot "find" enough skilled people.

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by loose nut View Post
                              the manager was saying that it is very hard to find good experience manual machinists anymore. The ones he can get just don't have the knowledge and skills that the older guys did and now has to send work like sharpening drills and cutters or making custom shaped cutters, routine work for a machinist in the olden times, out to specialized shops even though they have all the necessary equipment on site. The manager used to work in a tool and die shop and did this himself in the past.
                              JMO but the major problem isnt wages, its simply knowledge. Yes there are cheap shops not paying dink, but theres always been those. Knowledge OTOH seems to be disappearing faster than new technology is appearing, somehow folks seem to know less than ever while having access to more and I suspect its bc folks are relying too much on technology. I could probably write a book on the stupidity Ive seen thus far in my short career in manufacturing, designing challenging parts and quoting them to shops exposes me to far too much daily. I probably average one quote or job per month where something coming back from a supplier is just plain silly and ruins my opinion of that shop, my recent favorite has been shops that should be grinding to a tolerance believing they can mill to it. Some of these incidents make me really wonder how these shops survive.

                              Personally I'd suggest that someone truly talented is pretty dam valuable and rare nowadays, nevermind the future. One of my favorite suppliers is a small tool shop with about a dozen employees and an owner that went from basically nothing in his mid-40s to a millionaire a decade later simply bc he hires top people, pays them well, they have BOTH the equipment AND knowledge to do virtually anything, and they do top quality work the first time. Theyre not cheap nor quick, but when you need something abstract with tight tolerances done right everybody around knows you call them.
                              Last edited by justanengineer; 01-28-2015, 02:36 PM.
                              "I am, and ever will be, a white-socks, pocket-protector, nerdy engineer -- born under the second law of thermodynamics, steeped in the steam tables, in love with free-body diagrams, transformed by Laplace, and propelled by compressible flow."

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