Hello Reddit!

I just finished my 4th year teaching Machine Tool and Die at a public, low income school in Louisville, Ky. We have a high percentage of lower income, minority, and other non-traditional students. My focus as a Machine Tool Teacher is helping students become "career ready" by attaining industry certifications while also emphasizing soft skills. Many of our students pursue post-secondary education options through trade school, community college, or even traditional university, but many also go straight to work as apprentices.

I see many people on Reddit who are struggling in their careers or at university looking for a change, and often people on here will mention trade school. I wanted to do this AMA for anyone who is interested in pursuing a trade, or is just curious about vocational training in the USA.

Here are a couple public events that I have been a part of:




If you have questions about careers in the skilled trades, vocational training, or just what it's like to teach a shop class to high schoolers, I'd be happy to chat!

Proof https://imgur.com/a/3FKU6ST

Comments: 137 • Responses: 50  • Date: 

TheTrueLordHumungous22 karma

A lot of people probably dont realize just how much math a capable Machine Tool and Die man needs to know, how well prepared are your students in these basics or are you finding you have to train them up?

Forgotpassword087929 karma

That was probably my biggest shock when I started teaching. I planned to begin a unit on measurements to teach rule reading, but found out kids were totally ignorant about fractions. Simplifying took a week to teach for some kids. So I would spend weeks to get kids prepared to teach whats actually on my curriculum. Same for understanding decimals, metric, etc.

We do A LOT of math training that I believe should be taught before they make it to my class as freshmen.

notkoreytaube5 karma

Has your school district done anything to implement these applied maths classes toward the requirements for a high school diploma, or created a "career path" inside of the high school?

Forgotpassword087911 karma

I mentioned in another reply, our school has gotten setup under the “academies of Louisville” model. This means each school has smaller academies in them that are focused around their career pathway. So when my students leave my class to go to math, they will be in there with other machine tools kids, therefore lessons can be tailored to fit with what we are doing in shop. All about enforcing critical thinking with project based learning by tackling real world problems. (Is that enough buzzwords?)

notkoreytaube2 karma

project based learning

It is interesting that you bring this phrase up. To my high school this meant cancelling classes the final week of school and all of the kids get to roam the town free (with the intent of doing odd jobs). Many kids skipped because, you know, classes are done and finals are graded. What are they gonna do? Fail you? I am pleased to see a better rendition of the phrase implemented in a better manner than what it was in my high school.

Forgotpassword08793 karma

Haha. That actually sounds like a good time.

I see it as “here is a real world challenge. Get together, discuss solutions, create a prototype, test it, do cost studies, create proposals and present it all”. They get to use their math and science teachers to help with the theoretical stuff, English to help with speeches and proposals, and the shop to make prototypes.

omgwtf56k11 karma

Can you talk about the different mentality required to survive on a job site vs an office? I understand the power dynamics can be quite different.

Forgotpassword087917 karma

I've worked in both offices (metallurgical testing and software sales) and a few shops, I think the biggest thing that I have noticed is abrasiveness. Most (definitely not all) people who go into skilled trades are interested in showing up, working on their machine, and going home. Therefore they aren't usually too interested in politics or socializing, therefore can come off as abrasive or rude. In an office, people seem more pleasant, but I feel there is often an undertone of passive aggressiveness when people are bothered. I prefer the "say what you mean" method, but it does take a thick skin.

Zanderw11998 karma

Realistically, what trade, that's not extremely competitive, can I live comfortably on?

Forgotpassword087911 karma

I'm surface-level familiar with many, but intametely familiar with Manufacturing. In my area (Louisville, KY), the housing market is pretty good for an urban area. You can purchase a "family sized" house for $150k-$200k (maybe a little more depending on area). And I'm talking brick with basement, nice lot size, garage, etc.

Most of my students upon graduation are earning between $11-$15, with many of them being in the low to mid $20's after 4-5 years (with zero college debt). CNC Programmer and Journeyman Machinists can earn from $26-$34/hr here (again, zero college debt). Moving into more of an advanced manufacturing technical role can earn closer to the $28-$38/hr spot with a 2 year degree, and of course having a background in machining looks great on the application of someone with a mechanical engineering degree.

As for other trades, many people in this area serve apprenticeships in carpentry, plumbing, electric, sheet metal work, and HVAC and can easily push over the $20/hr range in 2-5 years.

Zanderw11996 karma

Thanks my man! I'm up in British Columbia so the housing market is terrible, mostly. I think going to school to be a machinist might be my best bet in this area. I'm currently working as a metal grinder in a foundry. My top rate for my job is $23CAD/hr, that won't do!

Forgotpassword08794 karma

I really enjoy machining. I also build furniture for side money so I'm familiar with carpentry. The precision involved in machining compared to some other trades makes it so appealing and challenging to me. I've worked with +/-.0005" tolerances before, it's really rewarding when a part comes out right.

Zanderw11993 karma

I've met many and I only hear good things! My father is a pattern maker, which is a dying trade, it would make sense for me to pick up his skills? I have to admit, he's really good, we have moved across the word twice for his work.

Forgotpassword08793 karma

I would recommend picking up a trade based on your interests. And be careful with "dying trades". You may need a trade that will carry you 30-40 more years.

I would visit a local technical school that has mulitiple programs, tour through the shops, and see which looks interesting. Talk to some of the instructors/students, see what the job market is, and what the day to day life is like. I like machining because even though overtime is abundant, schedules are usually pretty consistent. Whereas I know electricians and maintenance guys that work much more inconsistent schedules to meet the needs of the customer.

InquireIngestImplode3 karma

I constantly tell people this when they don't know if they can afford or handle college. I'm glad to see people like you are out there. Thank you for doing what you're doing.

Forgotpassword08791 karma

Thank you for helping spread the word!

Sodonotcare7 karma

Are your classroom tools current? Do you get access to the supplies you need?

Forgotpassword08798 karma

Yes and No. We have a well-equipped shop compared to smaller districts in my area, but many of the machines are dated. Several of our lathes were bought in the 60's. We have sometimes up to 50 students in the shop at a time (3 teacher program) with 7 Milling Machines and roughly 6 working lathes.

There really isn't much funding for items other than finding it ourselves. I recently helped us get a couple grants that purchased class sets of measuring tools, a couple boxes, and helped pay for industry certification testing. And our industry partners offer as much help as they can by donating tools, cutters, and material. But funding the bigger items, we are still looking for solutions for.

Jmazoso4 karma

But realistically I would think learning on older machines would be better. They are probably adjusted by hand, and worked by hand cranks to move the cutters etc. I think that would give a lot better feel for what’s going on with the machine. Then when you moved on to modern numerical control, you know the process and can understand how to get the outcome you want

Forgotpassword08795 karma

I agree learning on manual equipment is optimal, but when we are trying to work with +/- .003” tolerance on lathes that have low tail stocks or runout in the chucks, it makes it very difficult to be precise.

We even have industry partners that worry our students are learning on such dated equipment that they’re afraid they’ll struggle on the more current equipment used in industry.

TL:DR, I’m all for training on manual equipment, but I would like newer modern equipment on par with what’s used in industry.

soymilkftw3 karma

I've heard of some schools taking on "work" for small companies for free. The company just had to provide the materials. This could help offset the cost, and gives the students a project to work on.

Forgotpassword08792 karma

We are currently in talks with companies about doing this. Working through some logistical issues and finding companies that are okay with high schoolers having access to proprietary things.

I think we'll get there with time! :)

soymilkftw2 karma

I have some fairly simple parts made from aluminum. 1.25” OD, 1” OAL. Two id counterbores and two 10-32 tapped holes. Fairly simple.

Let me know if you think it’ll be a good fit.

Forgotpassword08791 karma

I think it's something we could handle. Are you local?

LeaveittoTIM1 karma

How realistic is it to make restoring machines a part of the curriculum? Alot of oldish machines can be bought on the cheap if your able to haul them out. Putting some TLC into them most of the time will get them back to running condition. Kinda like how auto classes sometimes restore junkers as part of class.

It would give students something to take ownership over, give them machine repair experience, and help increase your machine count.

Forgotpassword08791 karma

The biggest issue is that it's not that we just have a low budget. We just don't have a budget. We are given $150 a year for supplies, and that's for pencils, paper, chart paper, markers, etc. We do have an unlimited budget for fixing what we have, but that goes through a bid system and is paid for by the district, so it's not like I could divert those funds to purchase a machine and fix it ourselves.

Our budget is so nonexistent currently, we are asking for companies to "adopt a machine" meaning for $1,000 they can buy us a tool box stocked with everything needed for that specific machine. We're asking companies to buys us tools that THE MACHINES NEED! haha. It's crazy.

nanniej7 karma

Does your school system support your mission? Not being in the education field, I’m not sure if this is a current push.

Btw, thank you for what you’re doing! There are tons of kids that don’t want to do college, or just aren’t meant for college. Our system has let them down. Skilled trades is where it’s at. My husband was not a degreed electrical engineer, but is very sought after and successful in his field of industrial automation. He learned by doing. Like he always says, “There is no such thing as job security, but there is SKILL security.” These folks need skills. Dang, don’t they realize that skilled trades is an awesome money-making sector?

Forgotpassword08798 karma

The school system is slowly making the switch, at least here in Louisville. Schools are now held accountable on not only how many students are college ready, but how many are CAREER ready. Being career ready gets the school the same number of "points" as passing the ACT.

My district has also begun implementing an "academy" model in which the schools are split into smaller schools focused around thei career theme. So students in my program will be in math, science, and English classes with other Machine Tool students, thus their lessons can be framed in real world technical exercises.

Getting parents and some counselors on board with the whole "trades are JUST AS GOOD as college" mentality is a slow shift, but it is a shift that's happening.

I make the joke to students who don't behave that "they may not be cut out for machining, they may just want to try college". Totally tongue in cheek though, as I am a current college student as well.

nanniej4 karma

Kudos to your district! This is SO important. I like the concept of career ready. The company my husband works for here in the PNW always has job openings (they’re a growing business) and it’s difficult to find skilled tradespeople. The jobs are there and they pay well above some college grad rates. You just need to have the skills, show up to work on time, do your job, and have a great attitude. And with the way technology is growing leaps and bounds skilled tradespeople get to do really cool stuff!

Forgotpassword08793 karma

I typically have more job openings posted in my class than I have students. Every year I have employers with unfilled positions because many kids still feel pushed to go to college.

And you are so correct, I have seen some really cool technology thanks to my manufacturing background.

nanniej2 karma

Yup, laser technology cutting metal with precision, computerized milling, automation programming. It’s freaking cool!

Forgotpassword08791 karma

I'm with ya! I'm so blessed to not only be able to be a teacher (which has it's own perks and rewards), but to teach something that is truly so neat!

nanniej3 karma

When I grew up in the 1970s we had shop. Everyone took shop in our middle school. In HS they had several shop paths - construction, auto mechanics, etc.

Forgotpassword08797 karma

All those programs were left unfunded with the offshoring of many manufacturing jobs and the push for college. We are finally making a comeback with the influx of manufacturing over the last decade and with the over abundance of underemployed college grads.

cynikalAhole996 karma


Forgotpassword087915 karma

I don't think any of them are naturally useless. In a class of 20, I usually have 8 that will pursue it as a career, 4 that are genuinely interested but have plans for other things (sports, medical school, etc), 6 that are there because it just seems like a fun class, and 2 that aren't sure how they ended up there. I'm a pretty laid back teacher, but I treat my class as a job. I have high expectations, but am flexible with students who need different ways to learn and demonstrate. Cell phones are a safety issue, and therefore are a no-go, just as they would be in many shops. If I see it, I don't take it, I don't give warnings, I just send them out.

Acoldsteelrail6 karma

Are you following a specific curriculum? Which one? Do you like it?

What level of machining proficiency would your average student be upon graduation?

Can you talk about any cool projects that a student has done?

Can you give us any success stories from your students? Thanks!

Forgotpassword08795 karma

We are following the Computerized Manufacturing and Machining Pathway. I like it, but I dislike that even thought it's called COMPUTERIZED, we only have 2 CNC Machines. I would consider our program to be more Precision Machining Technology, but would love the updated equipment to be more true to our name.

We make mini-Thors hammers every year (keychain size) in the first year course. It's great for teaching basics, gets kids engaged, and also helps recruit. When they walk out of shop with a cool keychain that they made themselves, other kids ask questions and become interested. I've had a few students make light saber handles, phone stands, chess pieces, dice, and other neat things. We had a lot of fun 3D printing, then making a fixture and running fidget spinners to sell when that was a popular thing. Kids got really into that.

As this is only my 4th year, I'm just now beginning to see the fruits of my labor. However, when given the chance to brag, I like to note that in the past 7 years, we typically get 3-6 kids "career ready", 2 or 3 out co-opping, and a couple that continue in the trade post graduation. This year, we got a new principal who told us to really focus on those things; getting kids certified and getting them jobs.

This year we got 65 kids certified! If you watch the videos above (the facebook one) it shows an event we hosted where the 65 students were recognized with their certifications and were given the chance to take those certs and their resume to almost a dozen local employers who were looking to hire. All of our efforts have culminated to 2 students signed up for engineering school with their internship company already set, 5 signed up for apprenticeships with companies, 1 accepted into KYFAME (advanced manufacturing program), and 7 juniors who are working summer jobs in shops and expecting those to co-op when the next year begins.

I expect even more success next yea with placing co-op students!

mccrase5 karma

Where I grew up and went to high school about 10 years ago, the only vocational classes we had were wood shop, welding, automotive and drafting. It's really awesome to see machining still present in schools today.

Even though any serious CNC Machinist or programmer is likely to have a solid understanding in manual machining, is your school able to offer introductions into CNC after the tall foundation, or is the low availability of cheap equipment and limited access to funding generally a hindrance to providing detailed experience in CNC?

I wouldn't discount the huge importance of manual skills for a well* rounded individual, I'm just curious what you're able to enhance them with CNC-wise.

Edited for typo.

Forgotpassword08793 karma

With our limited amount of time with students, we put our largest focus on teaching the basics. However, we do spend time discussing CNC, CAD/CAM, and automated manufacturing. Senior year, students who are not co-opping, take a CAD/CAM/CNC course. We do have 2 CNC machines and 4 CNC Simulators, 45 seats of Solidworks/HSMWorks, and three 3D printers.

I'm hoping, as the time goes on and we continue to garner momentum and industry support, to expand our CNC training to be more of an integral unit instead of supplemental.

notkoreytaube5 karma

Have you talked with any local community colleges and/or trade schools to see if the seniors could use their equipment and take college level classes as dual credit? The community college in my area saw how much the public school system was struggling, especially in this aspect, and provides the facility, machines, materials, instructor and curriculum to high school juniors and seniors in the area. In addition those classes provide the student with high school credit, and class credit hours towards the career path in that community college.

Forgotpassword08793 karma

We used to offer dual credit for our course, so students could earn college credit for earning an A or B in my class. Things have changed and we’re hoping to get that going again, but the issue with offering the classes to be held at the college are the logistics of moving that many kids, and the college is holding its own classes during that time hosting paying students.

mccrase2 karma

That's awesome! Thank you for the work you're doing. The machining industry as a whole needs some well prepared young people coming in. On the job training can go a long way for the right person in the right position, but it can also leave an operator trapped with no growth potential. From my personal experience, it might be drafting that goes the furthest in manufacturing these days. It teaches not only how to read a print, which everyone has to be able to do, but gives insight into how that part made its way onto the print to begin with. I strolled into machining ~8 years ago with only drafting experience and a hefty dose of mechanical aptitude and have grown the skills through jobs to design anything I could imagine and run it on any machine I can get my hands on. Drawing, I feel makes a huge difference, all the way down to the 2d wireframe!

Keep fighting the good fight! And keep those kids safe, of course.

Forgotpassword08792 karma

About a decade ago, full on drafting was taught. However, there just aren’t many companies still sitting employees down with t-squares and the like at drafting tables to draw their own title blocks and stuff. And while I think it’s still a good skill to begin with, I typically have students for only 70 minutes a day, so we focus more on sketching, reading blueprints, CAD, and getting their butts into the shop to get hands on ASAP.

mccrase2 karma

Sorry, when I said drafting I meant CAD predominantly. When I was in high school, there was one semester of board drafting and 2 years of CAD, Intro to Drafting, Drafting I and Drafting II. Hopefully down the line, those are separate classes the school would be able to offer and not take up the students' machining time. You are definitely correct there is no direct board drafting going on anymore, but I would argue the foundation of it still holds merit.

Edit: Since this is an AMA, I'll pose another question. As an individual working in machining for the Aerospace industry, is there an easy way to find local opportunities to contribute to these types of programs? What sort of people do I need to look for and get in contact with?

Forgotpassword08793 karma

Depending on your area, I would look into whatever local high school, area technical center, apprenticeship program, or college offers Machine Tool or related programs. In my case, I handle all recruiting, business partnerships, guest speakers, industry connections, post secondary connections, etc (and a little teaching :P)

I would just reach out to them, let them know how you are interested in helping, and just become familiar with what they do. We are always looking for outside help, and it doesn't always have to be monetary. Often time is a great resource to donate.

saywherefore5 karma

How much of your syllabus involves manual machining, and how much is CAM? Does it reflect the reality of industry?

Also is there much design included? I am a mechanical engineer, and really value the input from our (ridiculously experienced) machinists, especially when it comes to design for manufacture.

Forgotpassword08793 karma

75% manual, 15% manual programming, and 10% CAM. I wouldn’t say it really reflects industry, but I think with the limited time we have, it’s our best bet. I find it easier to train someone in cnc if they are familiar with manual machining than vice versa.

We teach a whole year of blueprint reading. From measurements, to GD&T, to views, to scaling, to CAD. We don’t get into drafting like we used to, because it’s just not often that someone is at a drafting table with a t-square and stuff now a days. So we focus on blueprint reading, sketching, and cad.

I always enjoy hearing from engineers who value the work of machinists. I’ve, unfortunately, worked with many engineers who feel there’s a reason I’m “just” a machinist.

petertmcqueeny4 karma

Nothing against trades, and I know they are extremely necessary, and can be quite lucrative, but is there any push to create similar training programs in white collar jobs? Because I feel like there might be some subtle prejudice in training low-income kids for blue collar jobs.

Forgotpassword08798 karma

That’s an excellent point, but I take some issue to saying “training low-income kids for blue collar jobs” with a negative connotation. I see it as training low income kids for jobs that will get them out of low-income status without racking up debt, and bonus added that many of them prefer working with their hands!

But, to your point, many of the schools have implemented pre-engineering, nursing, veterinary technician, business/accounting, IT, robotics, and even pre-law pathways. Which is amazing! I just like to note that, my program specially, takes pride in setting up kids to enter the workforce immediately in gainful employment without the requirement for university.

petertmcqueeny3 karma

Thanks for you answer!

I don't mean to give a negative connotation to blue collar jobs. They are the backbone of civilization. My main thought was that putting vocational training directly into schools is a great idea, but there should be options of various types of vocations, both "blue" and "white" collar (a distinction which I admit is somewhat dubious, given how much science and math knowledge are needed in modern "blue" collar jobs). As valuable as working with your hands is to society, I'd hate for kids of a certain income level to be given no other options, as if being born in certain circumstances predestines you for a certain kind of career.

Forgotpassword08794 karma

I can totally understand that. My school specifically offers Business Finance, Business Management, and Hospitality. Then, as mentioned, several schools are picking up medical and pre-engineering pathways. We have our traditional schools who will still focus on ACT/SAT scores and college bound students, but many of the schools across the urban landscape are prepping kids with actual skills, be it in white or blue collar jobs.

petertmcqueeny3 karma

Well it sounds to me like you and others are affecting some real, positive change in the world, and I can only say cheers to that!

Forgotpassword08792 karma

Thanks, and cheers!

queseraserahh4 karma

Are skilled trades becoming more selective of their workforce? I'm referring background checks - it seems like the trades used to be the place to go for someone with a criminal record to find gainful employment. Has this changed?

Forgotpassword08793 karma

It is still pretty lax because of the shortage of workers. More and more companies are skipping drug tests (or at least omitting marijuana), being understanding of minor offenses, and looking to hire even unskilled people as long as they have a work ethic. The days of every posting saying "entry level- must have 5 years of experience" are over. Companies are finding ways to train in house because they can't find people already skilled.

I teach boot camps in the summer and evenings to "non-traditional" people such as people in halfway houses, underemployed adults, and veterans, through the local community college. A quick 2-4 week course to get them ready for entry level machinist jobs.

hcnuptoir3 karma

Are there any high quality tool and die manufacturers in the US? Specifically for high heat/high pressure PVC extrusion? Also, is it possible for foamed PVC to cause cavitation on a chromed die surface, after its been processed in the extruder?

Forgotpassword08794 karma

I will admit, plastics are not my area of expertise. My background is specifically in general machine tool work (here's a print, go make it"), CNC Programming (here's a print, make that machine make it), and CAM Software Sales (here's a print, show me your software can make it faster than XYZ program).

hcnuptoir2 karma

Ah, I got ya. Im just trying to get some insight into some of the equipment that my company uses. Thanks thougha

Forgotpassword08792 karma

We have an auto technology and a collision repair program at the school, I bet that would full more into their realm. Seems like a very beneficial skillset to have though!

PhonedZero3 karma

Are partsmen trade certified in the US? I work as one for a Kenworth dealer, here in Canada its just shy of 100k/year. 4 year apprenticeship, written test for final qualification.

Forgotpassword08793 karma

Could you give a little more info? "partsmen" isn't a trade I'm familiar with.

jonnienashville3 karma

Are you single?

Forgotpassword08792 karma

Married for 2 years now.

pl2333 karma

This is excellent! There is a real shortage of skilled labor in machining and related fields right now. I'm a ME working in supply chain and every metal shop I talk to says they can't find enough employees. What kinds of certifications are your students training for?

Forgotpassword08793 karma

We currently focus on NIMS certifications (National Institute of Metalworking Skills). They can obtain a measurement, materials, and safety cert, then try for several machine specific performance based certifications.

And next year we will begin offering Certified Production Technicians to train people for jobs and GE, Ford, etc and productions workers, and as an entrance to maintenance.

InquireIngestImplode3 karma

Did you need to get a educational degree to teach these shops? How did you come to be in your position?

I am assisting with my own high school turning into a chapter 74 vocational school and my old machine shop teacher has asked me if I wanted to replace him when he retires, but I really don't want to go get a teaching degree.

Forgotpassword08792 karma

In my state, we are hired based on having 5+ years of experience in the trade. Once hired, we have a certain amount of years to either obtain a technical associates degree, or to complete a "64 credit hour" program in Occupational Leaderrship and Learning. This gets you totally certified and we can stop. However, for full pay (we call it a rank 1) we only have to get a Bachelors degree (in Occupational Leadership and Learning).

The pay is really quite good, especially at the rank 1 status. And the degree (which the state pays for) is in something that if I get tired of teaching high school, I could get on Human Resources or Workforce Development and be a company trainer.

Sgtnos3 karma

Do you think that it should be an option to obtain a trade, rather than high school education? There are things that need to be taught, but most of a high school education is useless. Particularly because of no child left behind and not having diplomas as a measure of intelligence or work ethic. Also, there is a program in Minnesota, I believe, which teaches inmates a trade as part of a release preparation program. It has really low recidivism and only one escape, as of a couple years ago. Do you think that programs like that should be standard? I personally think that learning a trade gives someone the option of living a good life, instead of just sending them back into society with no skill and only knowing how to be a criminal.

Forgotpassword08792 karma

I’ve though a lot about offering a career ready diploma. I like the idea of a diploma for students that focuses on technical math, and other related studies that help them in their career field. Less time focused on teaching the more traditional things that typically don’t apply to most people after high school. Providing it’s seen as equal to a general diploma and not as a less than or remedial option.

My only issue is that over half of college students change their major before they graduate, high schoolers are even less likely to stick in a path. I would hate to tailor their whole high school time only to have them decide something different after they graduate.

I love the idea of providing skills to incarcerated youth (or even adults)! I’m teaching a 2 week boot camp through the community college for people in halfway houses next month designed to get them somewhat prepped for an entry level job. I would love to do more work with veterans who return in need of skills for work to obtain gainful employment.

Sgtnos2 karma

College is generally useless, in most cases as students are not in fields that have jobs outside of academia. Those who change typically do so because they are not capable or they don't like it. If it is a 3-4 year HS they could spend the initial time learning what they generally need and I would guess most trades take a year to be decent. If they know that they are going to have a job making $40 an hour (live in AK most trades pay around that). Having a job lined up would help prevent the switch. Also, the first few years would give them a chance to figure out what they want. I am on my phone, so please excuse the quality of the response.

With veterans get in touch with the Wounded Warrior Program and they will almost certainly be able to come up with something. I am in the program, veteran not staff, and they try to keep in touch with opportunities by region, so that is one option. Not all of us are too broken to do that kind of work, but most of us can't do what we did in the military. Example: I was an MP, but I will never be able to work in the field due to injury.

Forgotpassword08791 karma

I don’t know that I would say college is useless, but I don’t think it should be shoved down everyone’s throat either. College should not be THE goal, it should be a step towards the goal (which could be obtaining gainful employment, expanding certifications, deepening your knowledge of a subject etc). Going to college doesn’t make you successful. What you do with that education is what determines success. I’m currently a student pursuing a degree because it will garner me a higher salary, it will help with advancement opportunities, and best of all, the state pays for it.

I will definitely look into reaching out the the wounded warrior project. I’d love to get something going.

FunkyAnanab3 karma

Whats it like being a high school machine tool teaching die?

Forgotpassword08793 karma

It has it's perks and downfalls compared to teaching academic subjects. The benefits are that I'm teaching something that most students actually find interesting. I don't expect my students to sit still for 70 minutes in a desk listening to me lecture, we get to be up and mobile and working in a shop. We also have a lot more freedom compared to academic teacher. We have "standards" the state expects us to teach, but really as long as we are getting kids certified and keeping local businesses happy, we're given quite a bit of autonomy.

The downside is support. English teachers and Math teachers have MOUNDS of online resources from worksheets, to full curriculum maps. We don't. I often have to open word and make worksheets myself. There aren't fully developed maps online for us, and it's hard to find other people to collaborate with, because there are so few of us around. (Total of 6 machine tool teachers in my entire district). We also are basically running businesses and classes at the same time. Machine broke? I have to try to fix it or call someone to make it happen, and be the point of contact when they come. I have to order all the material after getting 3 quotes myself. I have to host multiple advisory committee meetings every year with business partners. I have to keep the shop in good order for program accreditation. I have to track co-op students time sheets, work hours, find new opportunities with new companies. I also have to recruit middle schoolers to help keep my program full. I provide career counseling to past students. I have to write grant proposals when I want to buy tools. I'm also attending University of Louisville pursuing a degree.

All of this on top of the traditional teacher duties like grading, planning, contacting parents, etc.

FunkyAnanab4 karma

I came as a troll and I left informed by a lengthy serious answer. Im not disappointed.

Forgotpassword08794 karma

Haha, if you see the last time I was on here talking to people (look for a post of me holding a baby onesie) you'll notice I am a hard person to troll. I'm just too pleasant (or dumb) to get riled up. Haha.

CaledoniaWarrior2 karma

Do you find other teachers look down on you teaching kids about trade work?

I almost went into machining as an apprentice after school but instead went into a more mechanical trade. I was a pretty smart kid and teachers used to tell me all the time that I was making a mistake going into a trade and that id never have money and was too smart for that type of career This was in the UK and not the US though. Do you have those problems?

Forgotpassword08792 karma

I don’t think they look down on us for teaching kids about a trade, but I do think they think less of us because we aren’t “real teachers”. Most of us spent years working and learning a skill instead of pursuing advanced degrees, and they think that makes them better. I try to take on leadership roles and other collaborative things to help show that trades don’t make a person dumb and that we are REAL teachers, just like they are.

Working in a low income school means we typically have younger teachers (high turnover, they get a year or 2 of experience, and use that to get into better schools). Many of these younger teachers don’t have the same bias against kids learning a trade, they actually think it’s pretty neat. I’ve even had several say they wish they would have learned a trade.

FatMan8322 karma

Do you do anything for job placement? I own a machine shop with precision OD/ID grinding, chrome and metalizing for oil, gas, power, plastics, manufacturing etc.

I hire and try just about anybody on scrap pieces. A lot of my guys come from manufacturing plants with production work, the same thing day in day out.

Forgotpassword08792 karma

My main 2 goals (other than just spreading my passions for making!) are to get kids certified and get them jobs.

A LARGE part of my role in the department is building relationships with local business to help place seniors in co-op opportunities, and graduates with full time career opportunities.

ExFiler2 karma

After I got married, I took a course from the NTMA to study being a machinist. Even though I don't work as one now, I find the information I learned to be invaluable.

Does your school work with an organization like the NTMA to facilitate getting jobs once the students graduate?

Forgotpassword08793 karma

The KMA (local chapter of the NTMA) actually hosts the apprenticeship classes in the high school I teach at.

95% of students in the NTMA classes here are already employed and being sent there by their employer. So we focus more on getting kids employed before they ever graduate (co-op) and make connections with employers who will sponsor them into the apprenticeship.

forbes522 karma

Hey awesome work man, it is great to hear stories like this. I went to a high school with a strong shop program that was slowly losing funding. Student/teacher projects were providing a good chunk of funding for tooling/programs etc.

Do you guys currently make any products to sell? There’s tons of great ideas that can lead to actual income to grow such a program. Keep it up, I’ll never forget my shop teachers.

Forgotpassword08792 karma

Thank you very much!

We do complete some “live work” where we will do things for outside people, but we only charge to cover expenses. It is SUCH a pain to do anything fundraising related due to unsavory people doing unsavory things, so we rarely do things that bring in profit. However, with the current momentum our programs have, I could see things changing soon for the better.

forbes523 karma

Ah understandable, sadly. Do you guys get a lot of resources from local companies? We had loads of shops around us that we donate scrap knock outs, old end mills, half working welders, etc. I know one of the teachers was always asking for any donations from companies, with good success doing so.

It’s so good to hear stories like this. I hate seeing shop programs dwindle, only to push bachelor degrees. I started CNC as a junior, went to trade school for tool and die, got a bachelors, currently a manufacturing engineer. I’d never be where i am without the shop program and teachers that gave their all for the kids

Forgotpassword08791 karma

We went through a weird phase where our program was a dumping ground for kids not cut out for college, so a lot of local companies quit seeing us as a viable option for finding skilled workers, therefore, those partners backed away.

This is only my 4th year, but I came into the program with the goal of recruiting a better student, the district began to shift focus to career training, and with the added support and higher tier student, those companies are slowly coming back around. If you watch the links I posted above, you’ll see our job fair event which would have totally been a flop 3 years ago. Hopefully as we provide more quality candidates, shops will begin investing in our program.

bdub45362 karma

Who was your favorite Batman?

Forgotpassword08791 karma

Abed Nadir

koshpointoh2 karma

Not really seeing any comments about CNC. Are you Training your students in G&M codes? HAAS is really good track record of supporting learning institutions. They might be able to donate or discount some equipment or controllers for simulation.

From my experience the most valuable skills for a machinist are running a machine, setting up a machine, and being able to at least read and edit G code if not program directly.

Forgotpassword08792 karma

We actually have a Haas VF-1, a Haas turning center, and 4 simulators. Unfortunately, it's really hard teaching a class of 20 on 1 CNC mill.

You'll see in one or 2 of those videos I posted that Haas is actually an official partner of our school now. I would love if that would yield us some free or deeply discounted machines, we will just have to wait and see.

We are training in some CAD/CAM/CNC and manual programming, but they are just supplemental to our core instruction. I would love to make them a bigger part if we had the equipment. I agree that those skills are awesome, but we also have a HUGE demand in the area for manual machining. A lot of local companies doing one off work that doesn't make much sense for a CNC. (my background is more CNC, and I do really enjoy it, just gotta work with what I've got).

koshpointoh3 karma

Awesome! Manufacturing gets a bad wrap these days, but it really is a great field if you like to work with your hands and have your brain engaged because you are constantly on the move working on a part, prepping your next workpiece, or inspecting a finished workpiece. Plus there is a ton of room for career growth, especially if you are entrepreneurial because after you know the ins and outs of producing parts you can start your own business.

Thank you for the work you are doing!

Forgotpassword08792 karma

I truly believe that having even a basic understanding of manufacturing can help in so many aspects of life. From understanding measurements, to how to make simple repairs, and it’s a great skill that can help you be creative! I began woodworking just because I wanted to try another skill. I had zero training but my machine tool training was enough to get me started.

TheMindFister2 karma

Any trades you think would be a good launching point for someone 40+ years of age without a blue collar background?

Forgotpassword08791 karma

I think machine tool is a great one because even though it is physical, it’s not like construction or plumbing that can be more physically demanding. You’re typically on your feet all day, but usually pretty stationary in front of a machine. Not a ton of bending, kneeling, etc.

Computer programming is pretty easy to self-learn, there are tons of online resources for learning it. I learned a bunch from cadecademy.

CNC Programming is very similar to machine tool, but because it’s computer controlled machines, it’s a little less physical than manual machining. You’ll often spend hours in front of a CAD drawing programming a part, go to the machine to set up the tools, touch them off, locate the part, run a couple test pieces, then turn it over to a semi-skilled operator to run.

clumsy-sailor2 karma

I need to ask this. There's a healthy Youtube community of machinists who produces well-made videos showing their skill which I find very educational. Various techniques gets discussed and the comments tend to be respectful and insightful.

I wonder if you ever thought to incorporate somehow some of those videos in your teaching practice. And I believe that those master machinists could be excellent role-models for your kids (besides yourself, that is!)

Any thought on this?

Forgotpassword08792 karma

I know it will sound weird because of the technology addiction many kids have, but even well made technical videos lose them super fast. They will consume content all day, if it’s stuff THEY seek out. But if I show a video... totally inattentive.

I do, sometimes, use short bits to show capabilities that we lack in the school, or watch them myself to find better ways of explaining concepts.

benfranklin232 karma

how did you find this job? did you see an ad, know someone at the school?

how many hours do you end up working in a week?

do you get summers off? do you really?

how hard is it to balance teaching, studying and your home life?

i am a journeyman toolmaker in my early 30's and think this could be a really rewarding job. thanks for all your replies so far!

Forgotpassword08791 karma

Most machinists aren’t browsing the local school districts job postings, so most of us know someone who knows someone. I actually graduated from the school I’m teaching at, so I was still in contact with some of the past teachers who told me. We’ve hired 2 more in the past two years, and one was also a past graduate, the other moved from the north east, he did kind of stumble on the posting. He had taught in his hometown but the program shut down and they were looking to move in this area, so he was literally looking for shop teaching classes in Ky and Tn.

If we ignore time spent on college classes to stay certified, I would say I average anywhere from 45-55 hours per week. Some times I can cut back if we are working on a project that I planned well in advance, but sometimes I’m probably easily clearing 60 hours when planning job fairs, certification testing, or our doing job site visits for co-op students.

I would say most veteran teachers (that can reuse more lessons instead of planning from scratch) could probably get 7-8 weeks off in the summer. First few years most are probably spending 3-4 of those planning, setting up classrooms, or attending professional development. I miss all the extra pay I got in industry from overtime, so I typically volunteer for anything that will pay extra. I often teach 2 weeks of summer school, teach at the local community college for a few weeks, and I also spend a lot of time working on college classes that will help me get raises. I also spend time visiting our business partners to try to secure work-based learning opportunities for students, tooling donations, field trips, etc. And I also build furniture from home for extra cash. This summer I’m slated to have probably a total of 2.5-3 weeks off (ignoring the time I’ll be woodworking).

It can be difficult to balance work, student, and family life because it can get busy at times, and some things are very hard to avoid without the students suffering. It’s definitely going to vary by school district, but ours provides us with some great benefits like 10 sick days that roll over (and being from industry, I’m used to not missing). When my son was born back in December, I used 11 sick days that rolled me into winter break, so I basically got a month off, and I still over over 30 sick days available! If I know ahead of time I need to do something after school, I can plan to make sure I’m out the door right after students. And, as mentioned, I work a lot more over the summer than I’m required to because I want to.

I think early 30’s is the perfect time to make the change. Our district pays really competitive with industry and has benefits that help close the gap, such as those sick days, the schedule, and free college tuition, but many smaller districts just can’t pay enough to draw from industry, so they often struggle to find people.

I’d be happy to answer any more questions you may have!

wooteef2 karma


Forgotpassword08791 karma

In my state, technical teachers are qualified by having 5+ years of experience in the trade. I have spoken with many people who say “I think teaching could be a cool retirement job” and it’s almost insulting. It’s not like the days of the past where you stay in your shop all day and build a few birdhouses with 6 or 7 kids that want to be there. I spend hours and hours outside of school planning, grading, studying, etc. I have to plan formative assessments, collect data, provide evidence of certain practices, plan events, tons of things. I have a class of 17-20 for 5 periods a day. If you want to get into it, I recommend doing it while your not too old to want to do all that.

I started when I was 23, which was probably a little technically inexperienced for what would be best. But some of the guys that start at 52-55, they often find it to be very challenging to make such a drastic shift and tackle the heavy workload (all of us trades people are used to working long days, but it’s a different kind of overtime and work)