Careers in Manufacturing ? eh…..

Careers in Manufacturing? 

Did you know that 66% of parents and teachers do not recommend a career path in manufacturing even though there are 750,000 jobs available right now.

Middle skill jobs are more than High school and less than 4 year college.

For every 10 Jobs in the USA, seven are skilled trades, two are bachelor degree and one is masters degree.  Middle skill includes Computer technology, health care, construction and high tech manufacturing.   They can lead to more training in higher skills as well.

Midde Skill chart

This chart shows that if you go to college looking for that high skill job,  you may end up at Starbucks with a big student loan debt living at home until your 34. Have a plan………

The perception of manufacturing is that: A) Its a Dirty Job – who wants that.  B) Manufacturing is going overseas – Why put that training to waste if it will be shipped out of the country. C) Its not very interesting and dull work.  – Ugh……….


a) The truth…… The truth its very high tech, clean and modern.  How about making a Titanium knee implant in an air conditioned facility with clean rooms. Or maybe High strength Inconel steel components for Jet engines.  Maybe even hardened steel Plastic injection molds to make your cell phone?  Not dirty….not dull


b) Manufacturing  is still very strong in the US. Workers in China are getting paid better now and its not so desirable to move the work out of the country anymore. We still have the highest technology in the world. Look at Space X landing a rocket back to earth. Who else does that?

c) Manufacturing is very challenging. Non stop need for thinkers who can troubleshoot. Problem solvers.  Never stop learning, technology changes too fast. Computer driven manufacturing that still needs that smart human touch.  Besides you make things. Things that we all need. You can see the fruits of your labor.


Piper Aircraft came to our school to get more graduates. There are many jobs waiting. They have 2 million dollar planes on a 2 year back log.

Is that an interesting job seeing a plane that you were a team member fly off the runway next to the Factory?  PA_M500_A2A_H_Ocean4

Manufacturing just has a perception problem. We need to sound the alarm and let kids know that you can make things that count.  Have a career that makes a difference.

Maybe even – Work now College later.

You can get a skilled manufacturing job and earn a living in a year or less.

Then work for a company that will PAY for your college education!

You can still be an college degree engineer.


Some community colleges even have articulation programs that will give you credit for certifications you may already have from high school or vocational-technical schools.

They also can train you in a one year certificate program or a 2 year Associate degree to be working in the High tech modern manufacturing world.


IMTS Podcast about manufacturing workforce – Click

Middle-skill jobs, which require education beyond high school but not a four-year degree, make up the largest part of the labor market in the United States and in each of the 50 states. All too often, key industries in our country are unable to find enough sufficiently trained workers to fill these jobs. As the fact sheets show, this skill gap keeps states’ economies from growing and employers from hiring.

Solving the skills gap requires educating students about the various career opportunities within the industry.  The upcoming generation of workers and potential employees want to do work that matters. They also want to pursue a career that offers development and advancement opportunities. Manufacturing is all about solving problems. It’s a challenging industry that is facing unprecedented growth and an unsustainable shortage of workers.



Posted in Machine Shop | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Become a Modern High-Tech Manufacturing Technician/Machinist


We start classes on Aug 13th.  Suncoast Technical College – Sarasota, Fla. 

In less than a year you can become a vital worker in the high tech manufacturing world.  Good people are needed to make many needed products for the medical – defense – plastics – automotive – motorsports and more. Just about everything that is made, a manufacturing technician/machinist will make.

This is a clean high tech world would very comfortable air conditioned facilities.

Earn good wages $30,000 – $55,000

Our graduates make $14 – $20 per hour after graduation.

100_0891  100_0338
Maybe You are good with your hands and like to tinker.  We also like people who can do computer work to design and produce machine code to run the Computerized manufacturing equipment.  You can be trained to be a quality control inspector as well.

Our program is 40 weeks long and you will have a Career in Less than a year. You will be working on a paid internship before the end of school. You can apply for a scholarship to help pay for most or all of training.

STC donation

We train you to have a life time Career. Not just a job. I have never been without a job once I completed my school at age 26.  Plus you will never learn it all – its a constant learning curve if you want – technology changes and you can ride along with it.


So its up to you to see if you have an interest.

My dad used to say “don’t live your life with any regrets – try it to find out if its for you”



Posted in Machine Shop | Leave a comment

Class of 2018 Graduation



2018 Grad

We reached the end of another banner and interesting year here at Suncoast Technical College. Everyone has had jobs and offers plus some are going on to more schooling.  Many did internships that were funded by Career Edge.

We had friends and family in attendance as well as past alumni that are all still working.  It was a nice get together. I know its my 5th year doing this but one day I will be able to get through the whole thing with cracking my voice with emotion.

One of our graduates is representing the State of Florida

Skills USA for CNC Milling Competition in Louisville, KY.

So we wrap up another year – we have produced 76 more NIMS Industry Certifications bringing our 4 year total to 359 – which leads the State of Florida. 

We also have had 5 students that have earned the NIMS Certificate of Merit

Earning 7 or more credentials in our one year machining program.

So now we start again on August 13, 2018

We need 18 more machinists. 

STC has we also added another program – Advanced Manufacturing.

So take advantage of these great programs –

Most applicants will have funded scholarships from Pell Grants – VA or Gene Haas Foundation.



Posted in Machine Shop | Leave a comment

Mission Accomplished Year 5 – 100+ Machinists


We started with no equipment.

We had a local group named CareerEdge Funders Collaborative.

CareerEdge was designed to work on both sides of the labor market – the supply side and the demand side – as well as among intermediary organizations, such as higher education institutions, in order to fuel the pipeline of skilled labor needed by the region’s employers.  Two of the most tangible goals are to help low-skill/low-wage workers advance into higher-skill/higher-wage careers, while providing employers with the workers they need to accelerate growth.
CareerEdge hired Kempton Research and Planning to help us conduct a skills analysis study. The results of this study illustrated the skills gap and articulated misalignment and challenges.  Jeff Maultsby (Economic Development of Sarasota County), Jennifer Behrens Schimdt (SAMA and Atlantic Mold & Design) and Mireya Eavey from CareerEdge presented the findings to the Sarasota County Commission and County School Board Members. CareerEdge spent a significant amount of time advocating to convince the school and commission why it was necessary to move forward with the program proposed. As a result of our efforts, Sarasota County funded the necessary equipment needed $325,000. CareerEdge also provided an additional $25,000. Jeff and Mireya united community partners around this mission and developed a community-wide action plan.

CareerEdge, a privately funded workforce-development group that focuses on harnessing a community’s full resources, hired Kempton Research and Planning to conduct a skills-gap study. The results were clear.

When asked about the greatest hiring challenges over next three to five years, 38 percent of manufacturing companies named skilled production workers as the most difficult to find — twice the number who answered engineers and four times the number who said sales and marketing people. And 75 percent of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that schools are not preparing workers with skills needed in manufacturing.

CareerEdge — the only organization of its kind in Florida as part of the national Funders Collaborative — helped put together the workgroup that began searching for the best solution. The group included: CareerEdge; Sarasota & Manatee Area Manufacturers Association; SCTI and the Sarasota County School Board; Suncoast Workforce Board; Sarasota County Commission; Gulf Coast Community Foundation; Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce; and Economic Development Corp. of Sarasota County.


“From the very beginning, there was a spirit of cooperation,” said Jeff Maultsby, director of business and economic development for Sarasota County. “It was really a model effort on how things can be done and should be done.”

“The study was definitive that the jobs were here in this community,”  Todd Bowden said. (Director of SCTI at time and current Sarasota County Superintendent.) He moved swiftly to make a change-order in a building already under construction to accommodate the new machining program’s lab.

The previous Sarasota County Technical Institute (SCTI) machining program was closed from lack of participation and machinery auctioned.   Sarasota county decides to build a new school in 2012 – But no machine shop in the plans.

The local manufacturers’ organization, SAMA, played a crucial role, representing the 600 manufacturers in the two-county area. Jennifer Behrens Schmidt, president of SAMA and of Venice-based Atlantic Mold & Machining Corp., dug in with SCTI to help move things along, including the development of the precision machining training program. She probably logged the most hours on a volunteer basis.


In an unusual move, local manufacturing leaders were instrumental in creating the materials needed by the program. It was an employer-led curriculum. That cut the cost of machinery in half, because the people in the field knew what was, and was not, needed.


Then I got a note from Haas CNC machinery HFO Tampa salesman Dave Thomas that the school needed an instructor. I was working at defense contractor Lockheed Martin in Orlando at the time but it interested me. And so we begin.

On August 2012 I started the first class of new program with 18 students and we had NO machines for 4 months.  But we learned as much as we could during those 4 months and we didn’t lose any students during that time period.  We did some field trip s and shop tours to educate that way.  Local manufacturer Sun Hydraulics came by with a donation of raw material metals.  Machinery was coming in slowly and electric being hooked up. Director Todd Bowden promised we would be fully functional when we got back from Christmas break.

January 2013 – we come back and everything is working – just as promised. We dug into that big box of donated metals and we went to town.  The rest of those months from January to June we spent being machinists.


Then its June and time to finish. We decide to have an official graduation. All the students have been hired by local companies.  Success. We made it.  We have done the same for the next 4 years. Added some night school as well. Produced 100+ machinists who all have jobs in the local community. Time for Phase 2.

We lead the state in NIMS industry certifications with 358 in 4 years

I guess I have a special feeling for the original class of apprentices. Some graduates are still working and building skills on the job and now training more apprentices. Two of our Graduates have started their own CNC Machine shops.

Even Ivan P. from our first class was recruited to work at the new Tesla Lithium battery plant in Sparks Nevada. I made him promise to send a pic of him in front of the Tesla sign



I just wanted to give a thanks to all that made this happen. Many times we make plans and they don’t come out the way it was planned.  But this time it did.

shop group promo100_0572100_089130156492936_91c2f93e1e_o20171109_115853

“This accomplishment would not have been possible without all involved.”
It is important that we recognize and sincerely thank

CareerEdge Funders

  Sarasota & Manatee Area Manufacturers Association,

Suncoast Technical College

Sarasota County School Board

Suncoast Workforce Board

Career Source

Sarasota County Commission

Gulf Coast Community Foundation

Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce

Economic Development Corp. of Sarasota County.

Graduation for the Precision Machining & CNC program will be held in the Suncoast Technical  College Conference Center on June 21 at 6:00pm.

We look forward to our continuing journey as we move on to Phase 2 in training and filling jobs in the Manufacturing sector for our community

Posted in Machine Shop | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

CO2 Dragsters – CNC Machining


I have been teaching  CNC machining for the last 5 years at Suncoast Technical College and have over 30 years experience in the trade. When I started in 1984 the CNC machining centers where just starting to become popular but it was a learning curve.  The old time machinists were used to manual machining and did not like the computer driven machines but I think we can see now how important this direction in manufacturing has been.


I was curious about the TSA CO2 balsa wood dragster project. It was not in my teaching area but when I saw that they were working with a tutorial on operating a CNC Router and programming in MasterCam Cad-Cam software it peaked my interest. After all we had hosted the president of MasterCam , Meghan West 2 years ago at our school.  We teach MasterCam as well as all the CNC machining techniques currently used in industry.



This year I wheeled the Techno DaVinci CNC machine into our lab next to our Haas CNC Milling machines. We got it operational with a laptop.  Previously we had done fixture modifications on the CO2 dragster setup as we were not happy in how it worked. So we tried to make improvements.

Going back in time 4 years ago we had made a fixture that fit our 4 axis Haas VF 2 CNC Mill to machine a CO2 shell car. We had no knowledge of the Cuda Country tutorials or the CO2 dragster project. A student from a neighboring high school had come by with a MasterCam File and asked if we could machine his block of balsa wood.    It was funny because when this student showed up with that piece of wood and a USB drive our question was “how are you going to hold that in a machine ?”  He was dumbfounded.  So we made our own fixture. Hey maybe more kids will come with projects?  Then we learned of this TSA competition.

CTE Logo    sponsor-HAAS

Cuda Country

Techno CNC Machine – CO2 Dragsters

So now we had the Techno Da Vinci in our lab this year. I wanted to become proficient at this so I could show others how to do this successfully.  I can’t say I am totally proficient yet but then again you never ever stop learning.

CUDA Country CO2 E Rail Dragster

So I will go over step by step what you will need to do to increase your success in CNC machining your TSA CO2 dragster.

We modified the fixture

We do not use a hammer on the fixture – we removed the black plate and made our own fixture and used 3 deck screws to hold in place.  We used the ball screw on top to get the 180 degree orientation.   Then 2 side screws to clamp. Don’t have any screws facing up near the spindle area as the machining area is tight in the Z direction.

Common issues & problems – From a CNC Machinist Point of View

Setup of fixture and finding part zeros – X Y Z

You need to home the machine in X Y and Z to be able to get your config coordinates

Setup of tooling and coordinates

Set X0 to the back of car body wood blank – so that center-line of tool is set to center-line of the rear of car – then record (write it down) that X coordinate from home position

Set Y0 to center line of the CO2 cartridge hole – record that number

Set Z0 by tool height. – The Cuda Country tutorial has you set the MasterCam Z0 plane to 34 mm above the cartridge centerline.   The Gold end mill tool that comes with the Techno is adjustable.

So you need to set this Gold setting tool – It will be used to touch off the 6MM ball end mill a set distance from the table.. We measured 45mm from table to centerline of the IMTS fixture cartridge hole and we have to add the 34mm for the Mastercam plane set in the Cuda tutorial.  We used a dial caliper to set the 79mm total height – we use imperial measurement so that was 3.110″  verify your measuring tool as people could play with it and have it out of adjustment. The tool has a setting for a drill but we will skip that tool for now.

Its very important to setup and check Config file to make sure it matches your recorded numbers. It may put in a default setting that does not match your numbers.  Especially when you do a new program translate.  Double check the setup page before you hit the start button.  We use ‘Y” for home before run and “Y” to home after run.  Note the pics of the setup config.


The 6 mm ball mill should be extended about 1.25″ out from the collet. You may need to move the spindle motor bracket up so that you have adequate clearance above part and fixture.

Please watch out YouTube video also
STC CNC Machine – CO2 Dragster Setup

Limitations of your CNC machine and how it affects operation and design


100_1619If you design the car very wide you risk not having material to cut. You should also verify by making a Solid shape of the actual Balsa blank. You can do that in Mastercam to make sure your car design fits within the material boundary

Cuts on top and bottom – We usually just make a left and a right side cut. we have seen some designs that needed top cut and bottom cut. This is also time consuming and may require special tooling to go deeper than original plan.

Not looking at CadCam or Techno display verification to identify a crash situation

We have seen many files and heard stories of the cutter coming around the back where the CO2 cartridge hole is and crashes into the fixture.  Please do a verify in graphics to see any errors.  In machining Solid models that Cad Cam program software like MasterCam will try to machine everything it has access to. You may need to set a boundary so the tool path does not wander into areas that may support the part or the work holding fixture it self. The Cuda Country tutorial has you make a small solid rectangle in MasterCam to keep from machining the nose of the car. the car needs some support up front so this will be a check boundary.  We have done similar method in the rear by copying the same rectangle solid and transforming it to the rear to create another boundary on MasterCam student programs that missed this technique.

More Youtube Videos

STC Precision CNC Machining Lab

STC Precision CNC Lab and CO2 setup

Ed Doherty

Precision & CNC Machining Instructor

Suncoast Technical College – Sarasota Florida
Mastercam U

If you have any questions feel free to contact us –

We can also review your project in Solidworks and or Mastercam – Plus we will have Online MasterCam training available to all Sarasota County teachers.









Posted in Machine Shop | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Time for MFG Tours

Our first MFG tour was to Exactech –  Sarasota – Florida

A medical implant manufacturer based in Gainesville, Florida.    Exactech website


It was founded by a group of surgeons from the University Of Florida ( Go Gators !)     We were able to see how Titanium Implants were made for Hips, Knees and Shoulders.

Exac knee

The team at Exactech has been a great resource and last year they hired some of our top graduates.  2 of them , Mike & Jason, had passed NIMS level 2 CNC machining certifications.  Now they need more machinists as they are getting 4 more CNC machines and just brought another 5 axis on line. We also got to tour the clean room.  Thanks to Rick and the team at Exactech – Sarasota. I’m sure we will be able to supply them with interns this Spring.


MFG Tour # 2 – Choice Mold & Tool 


Next up was a tour this past week of Choice Mold and Tool – which is also connected to Oxtec LLC – a plastic injection molding facililty. They are also in transition from commercial molding to medical plastics with clean room for that industry that supplies large companies like Arthrex Manufacturing in Naples.  Choice Mold was brought on to build more plastic injection molds for Oxtec LLC and other customers. They want to take on Intern this coming spring.  Great news.  we also had some of our drafting students come along to see a modern manufacturing facility.


End of the year and Christmas Break 


We are winding down for our Christmas break, having the annual Xmas party/cookout  (well it is Florida?). We have been getting up to speed on other projects so that we can tackle proficiency in the coming months.

We are using our Verisurf to do some reverse engineering and also to test out measuring on NIMS projects before we send them out for MecTec inspections.

We also all machined a Titans of CNC 1M project as a CNC beginner setup and run job.

So Merry Christmas and Happy New year to all 





Posted in Machine Shop | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Year 5 Underway – Class of 2018



Well here we are , Year # 5 and on Track to hit the 100+ mark of machinist training set by Dr Todd Bowden the SCTI director back in 2013.  Dr. Bowden is now the Sarasota county School superintendent but he checks in every now and then.


We have another great class and have completed our first semester of 10 wks.  We dig into traditional manual machining and CNC machining.  Learn how to read those blueprints , do a brush up on math and also learn technical details of all the basic processes of machining.

Now we start to add CNC programming basics and how Computer Numerical Control works.  So you have to have computer skills and hands on skills.  From basic band saw to the 4 axis CNC Haas Mill.   Later on will add to our quality control skills with digital measurement from Verisurf and the 3D gage measuring arm.


Now we set up and observe up close with our monitor and GO Pro camera setup to see up close what is going on inside that CNC machine

So we have another 30 wks to go  – and then it will be graduation before you know it.


Now we have added new projects from Titans of CNC academy – Nice…

Posted in Machine Shop | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What do want to do in your career path?

You just graduated High school – maybe you went to college and it isn’t for you

or you want a career change?

Do you want to learn a Skilled Trade?  in less that a year ? Where you can get a job anywhere in the US?  Learn to be a machinist. A modern High Tech CNC machinist.

Be part of modern manufacturing and making important REAL things.

We have trained 85 modern CNC machinists and in the last 4 years that are all working in less than one year.

Earn national certificates from NIMS that can help you get that better job.

Work in air conditioned technology centers on aerospace, defense, motorsports, medical


you can learn to makes things that count…….

Classes start Aug 14 and they will fill fast



Suncoast Technical College 4748 Beneva Rd., Sarasota, Fl. 34243

Florida residents pay only 1/3 of what a national private school will charge.

Gene Haas Foundation will award scholarships during the school year that can be applied to your tuition


Tuition grants are available  – what are you waiting for


Do you think this is for you?  can you make things?  do you like to figure out puzzles?  can you be in a job in which you NEVER stop learning?

get in the Manufacturing World…. last June one of our top students made $20/hour after graduation

Posted in Machine Shop | Leave a comment

Wrapping up Year 4 – Precision and CNC Machining Education


Wrapping it up ……………………………………….



Well we are headin’ down the home stretch, yet again.  The mad dash for job placement, internships, final tests and of course NIMS Certifications.

Looks like we will end up with 95 certifications for the year bring us to 285 in 3 years.  3 of our apprentices even earned a NIMS Certificate of Special Merit for having 7 or more Credentials.  We like to excel in CNC machining but still believe that traditional machining skills just make you better overall.


We also took on some new projects. We had a tailstock on our Haas ST10 CNC lathe but had never used it. Bought a nice Royal live center 3 years ago. So one of our guys Jason attempted the NIMS Level II CNC Turning project which requires a tail stock.  It was a learning curve for all including me but in the end we won.  Jason also earned that NIMS level II credential, one of only 4 in the state.

What a year !! We toured many local manufacturing facilities including very large 5 axis boat mold machining.

We got to go to Daytona 500 care of Stewart Haas racing.

Visited by MasterCam President Meghan West to see our kick off of MasterCam training evening school plus CTE training for our county High school/middle schools using Solidworks and MasterCam to design and build Balsa Wood CO2 dragsters in Techno DaVinci CNC Routers.

But all of our students were able to excel and improve skills needed in todays world of manufacture. So hold on tight as we take this to the finish Line !!!


Posted in Machine Shop | Leave a comment

Teaching Machining in Today’s world

I am just completing my 4th year of full-time instruction in Precision and CNC Machining here at Suncoast Technical College – formerly know as Sarasota County Technical Institute.  It has been more work that I thought but I do enjoy a lot of the outcomes and effect I have on our community.  I do spend too much time at work but maybe its the nature of me or being a machinist.

I did not come from a family of machinists. My dad was the fruit and vegetable guy at local supermarket.   I attended college level classes in high school but never took my SAT’s. I did ok in high school but I had no plan in 1972.  I then worked menial jobs , like forklift operator, auto parts sales and delivery, dishwasher at the mall.  Then one day I ran into someone at the auto parts store – a friend.  He said that he was not driving truck anymore. He got training to be a machinist and told me …. “you should check it out “.  Well I did.  It was called Boston Tooling and Machining Institute – a NTMA school in an industrial park.  I took a small test and passed. Plus it was a free school sponsored by Boston Tooling Association. So I left my auto parts job in 1983.


We learned some math, blueprint reading and manual machining on donated equipment, Mill and lathe. Taught the basics for 4 months and then put in the field. I ended up at a machine tool dealer – Methods Machine Tools , Sudbury, Mass. in the special projects dept. for 2 years. After that I worked at a job shop called Dyko Tool and Die in Waltham, Mass. I was thrust into the new world of machining – Computerized machining or otherwise called CNC.

Since then I have always been a machinist – it fit me like a glove.  I never knew I had the talent for it. The CNC machining was perfect for me. I learned to write code for the CNC machine and use my manual machining skills to make parts in the late 80’s.  First shop that I was lead CNC man in 1987 in Woburn, Mass. I had to figure how to run and program a converted Mill with an Allen Bradley control. I figured I needed to have a part by the end of the week and I did. No one else at that shop knew how to run those CNC machines.

I moved to NH and worked at a 5 axis CNC shop in 1990. It was cutting edge technology. 27 years ago at a place called TurboCam running Boston Digital CNC machinery. They had 2 engineers writing software to run these machines.  One of my jobs was making a prototype torpedo propeller.

I have worked at many places making brain surgery equipment, Hip implants, Race car parts, custom motorcycle equipment, Defense department pieces and some things I had no idea. Secret stuff I guess.  I worked at a large metal fabrication shop running the Mori-Seiki CNC and learning about precision sheet metal work.  Worked at a Rockwell plant in mold department running the Okuma and Milltronics CNC Mill and learned about moldmaking We were making plastic proximity switches and also did tool room work to support the plant.  Plus many more jobs.

I always worked , always had a job good times and bad. Last place I worked was at Lockheed- Martin in Orlando, Florida right next to SeaWorld. 3000 people at a secure defense facility on CNC equipment that costs $950,000. I look back to 1972 when I left high school and can’t believe I have done all this and people trusted me.  Best compliment I had was from a former boss, Bill Lobdell from Sanders Associates, Manchester, NH.   I would report to him on what I was doing as a CNC lead man.  Asking permission for changes or updates. He told me “just tell me at the end of the night as I trust you. You do a good job”.  Bill is gone now but I still remember. I worked with many great people and machinists. Learned a lot.

In 2013 I had a chance to teach near my home in Sarasota, Florida.  We had moved to Florida in 2005.  I was to teach a brand new Precision Machining program to help workforce development for needs in manufacturing.  I met with the head of the local manufacturing association – SAMA – Jennifer Behrens Schmidt – president.  I had written a paper about teaching in the modern world of machining years before when I taught part time at another vocational school.  My thoughts were how we needed more CNC training and less high level manual traditional teaching.   She totally agreed so I knew it would be a good fit.  I became a teacher for Sarasota county at SCTI.

Now I am ending my 4th year and will have trained about 85 apprentices in a one year 1200 hour program called Precision Machining and CNC Automation – under the frameworks of Florida Dept. of Education. I had to develop the program myself with help with advisory guidance from SAMA – Sarasota and Manatee Manufacturing Association – so that what I taught aligned with what companies needed.

I also had the great pleasure of meeting Bob Skodinsky from HTEC – Haas Technical Education Centers. He actually works for this national organization to promote machining education that is based in California but lived right down the street in Sarasota.  He had saw that the SCTI school was staring up a new program after the previous one had been dumped 10 years previous. So he helped guide them with purchase of 2 Haas CNC machines (TM-1P and ST-10) and a software program called Immerse 2 Learn – I2L. I had been told about the job from HFO-Tampa salesman Dave Thomas.  So I applied and got hired.

So I showed up 3 weeks later to a class of 18. Only problem was we had no equipment yet. Just 3 books and I2L software. Machines are on order. (waiting and waiting) . We waited from August 2013 until Jan 2014.  I had to purchase more equipment also. With direction from SAMA I purchased traditional machining equipment – 2 mills – 2 lathes and 2 surface grinders and a drill press, plus saws, sanders, machinist tools, bench grinders etc.   I also added a 2 axis Hybrid CNC Trak Mill plus a Haas VF2 with 4th axis. We also setup up an inspection department with necessary gauges needed.  By Jan 2014 we had power and a load of metal donated from Sun Hydraulics.

In the mean time we did constant CNC software training,  We also had 12 Haas CNC simulators and used them to hand write G code programs – the common language used by the CNC machine. We also did field trips to visit manufacturing facilities. I tried to keep the focus away from the empty shop or as educators call it ” the Lab”.  I was happy that no students left. Well we finished the year and got 100% employment.

So in 2013 wondering whats next. I added 2 seats of MasterCam for CNC programming, Then in Jan 2015 added a 300 hr Fast Track CNC night class. Companies would send us people who needed more training. This year 2017 we added MasterCam night school for associate level certification. Finally one of our original sponsors – Career Edge Funders started an internship funding program in 2015 for apprentices. We were able to get companies to take on apprentices to learn more OJT in the field. Career Edge also sponsored Soft Skill Training for the last 2 years as well.  Furthermore we produced the most NIMS certifications in the State of Florida.  (National Institute of Metalworking Skills).

I now have even more companies calling me and I cannot fill all the jobs. Word has got out about our success plus manufacturing is just very busy.  Many machinists are also retiring. We need more trained machinists.
Now what? – Well 4 years ago I had a thought on how we should teach trainees and align it with the needs of my area.  We only had one year to do this – a Career in a year – all adults.

I would follow my model of how I learned, not like what other schools used to teach. Some guys I worked with had only traditional training and showed me projects they made like a tool makers vice , hardened 1-2-3 Blocks and more.  I didn’t think we needed to teach using the older system but I did think it was important to learn using Manual equipment along with learning about CNC , which is now the primary source of production.   The same processes applied only the CNC was faster and had much better control.  In my experience the traditional machinist as a high level job was being phased out.

But many companies still expected you to know how to run that manual equipment as needed but they would make the high production and high level stuff on CNC machines. Manual machines are now considered to be secondary equipment.  I still thought it was a good idea to learn hands on with traditional machining.  To get the feel of cutting metal,  learn good setups and techniques and then apply them when in CNC land.  I would only have them to simple projects like Bore a hole on Vertical mill and Lathe.  Single point thread using a tool they hand ground. Make a spacer using another tool they hand ground on the lathe.

They learned quickly about tooling and relief angles etc.  When you talk about an inserted tool to a student they don’t get why it cuts, it just does. When they made their own cutting tool they got it. So manual machining became a way to teach machining in its pure form.  We also had tool and die and Plastic injection mold-makers companies and they wanted students to know surface grinding as well.


On to the CNC machine.  We start here setting up jobs that are proven CNC G code programs. Setup tools, offsets and get it running safely and efficiently. Then measure the final result and read them blue prints to make sure its precise.  We also use the latest technology using wireless probing  for setting up tool coordinates but we also teach old school methods as 50% of the companies still do it that way. I want them to be employable in many situations. Some shops have a mixture of old and new CNC.  Knowing old school methods of setup will also make you more valuable (edge finder and tool touch off with gage blocks ).

Then we progress to hand writing a couple of simple programs plus setup and run like before. We also use the 2 axis Trak Mill as a bridge to full CNC. Its a conversational machine that does not require G Code knowledge and gets the student thinking about how to cut in a CNC world.  So we eventually have students able to take a part from A-Z. Plan the process, write the CNC program, set the job up, machine a complete part, measure the finished product.

We are earning NIMS certifications along the way. They must make a part that passes a third party inspection.  Using various methods.  Some tests are on CNC operation, setup and maintenance.  The final tests are hand written CNC programs for lathe and mill per NIMS requirements.  I believe the people on the shop floor should understand G code so they can make adjustments on the fly to keep quality and production going.  No need to go reprogram all the time with Cad/Cam, even though most shops use the Cad/Cam system like MasterCam to program all. What if the boss wants to move a job to another machine?  Our guys can edit quickly what is needed because they can think in G code. They know how to calculate proper feeds and speeds. They get used to trouble shooting problems and helping the new people. Problem solving is a big deal in the real world.

When they get in the programming room and become CaM programmers they know what good code is by a quick scan. We all know they have simulation software that helps keep them crashes down but some smaller shops run on a tight budget so you work with what you have.  Its a constant learning experience. Even for me at age 62.

We also teach an evening course in MasterCam – Cad/Cam programming plus our district is teaching middle schoolers MasterCam to machine balsa wood Co2 Dragsters after they design it in Solidworks. They machine them with DaVinci Techno CNC routers.  Its not just a 3d printing world for these kids.

So here I am….. I ask our local shops and advisory is there any direction I need to change in what we teach?  No way. They are very happy and now I get too many calls looking for a good machinist.  I hope we can turn the tide with parents and counselors to show them that working in the trades is very rewarding. We need to fill the pipeline for skilled trades.


In my home town of Burlington Mass I went to school with Roger Cook. You may see him on a TV show called “This Old House”.  In my old town everyone knows that the skilled trades make a good living so the vocational schools have a waiting list like Worcester Technical High School.  I just wish everywhere in the US it was the same. We just about fill the class room a week before first day.

We host an annual event called National MFG Day in October. We also use a great program from a story teller Jeremy Bout from EDU Factor during the MFG Day event. He tells and shows great stories of just people like us – people who make things. This is one way of getting the right people.  Titan Gilroy – He has a great TV show on MAV TV called Titans of CNC. he is always out there telling his story of success and helping others through inspiration and lessons on CNC.

I also belong to a great group – HTEC. Haas Technical Education Centers. The only group totally dedicated to machining education. I have now been to 3 national conferences and our school hosted the first State of Florida HTEC conference. We get to meet other instructors and discuss different methods of teaching and help each other. Bob Skodinsky nominated me for the HTEC Council at my firs conference in Minn. to represent one year schools.


I have learned many things about the education world. Some schools are high school, some are 2 yr community college, some are training built into 4 yr universities and connected to engineering programs.  And we have schools like us who teach in one year. To retrain workers or take high schoolers who have wandered and now need career direction. Workforce development is my goal. I have to line up jobs , build relationships, internships and more.  I hope at some point we get high school graduates who comes here right after graduation on a mission.

So in July you will see me in Dallas, TX at my 4th HTEC conference. Meet new people and see some friends. My life has been a journey but I didn’t plan life like this (but not too bad.)  In 1972 I could have never imagined this path.

Yeah that’s me on the dragbike, too.  Something else I didn’t know I was good at.






Posted in Machine Shop | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments