With college skyrocketing in price every year, machining trade schools offer an affordable and promising solution to those looking for a meaningful - and even lucrative - career path. Kurt Preisendanz is the Director of Training at the NTMA Training Centers in Southern California. Passionate about sharing the opportunities that machining has to offer the next generation, Kurt explains the challenges that trade schools face and ways that manufacturing leaders can help lead the charge in alternative higher education. Lee Norton is a board member of the California Manufacturing Workforce Foundation, a 501c3 charity that uses their donations to provide tuition and funding to currently enrolled students who are pursuing technical careers. Be sure to listen to this inspiring and insightful episode to learn more about the amazing option of machining trade schools and how you can make a difference.
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Kurt shares the struggles that he faces when representing the NTMA Training Centers at job fairs and high schools. Many parents and teachers push their children towards universities and traditional college paths because they believe those are the best options available. Trade schools are often looked down upon as not good enough for promising students or as a legitimate gateway into a successful career. Kurt explains that this is mostly an American view, as Europe has long viewed learning and mastering a trade as a proper way to begin a career and life as an adult.
Lee shares that while his children are attending university, they have a clear goal in mind. The problem isn’t that the traditional college route is wrong - it’s that it is often wasted and is perceived as the only path to success. That simply isn’t the case. Both Lee and Kurt believe that low trade school attendance and acceptance has to do with the fact that people simply don’t understand the value of what is being taught. The manufacturing world, especially, is still viewed as the dirty factory work that we all want to avoid and escape. Manufacturing, however, has become one of the most modernized and technological industries in the world. The robotics, engineering, building, and software developed and utilized within the manufacturing industry is extremely cutting-edge. The challenge is to overcome the misperceptions surrounding trade schools and machining and to effectively share the opportunity of a machining certification.
Forget the old days of dirty shop floors and being “doomed” to dangerous factory work. The modern world of machining and manufacturing is filled with incredible technology. Kurt explains that while students in machining trade schools are required to learn all the basics of machining, they are exposed to the many specializations that are available, including robotics, CNC machining, inspection, Master CAM, and CMM. Every one of NTMA’s students learns turning and milling and the fundamentals of machining so that they understand how everything is made. The program can be completed in as little as seven months, with daily hands-on instruction. Students graduate with a certification and are guided and encouraged in their job-finding journey. Many leave with job offers and the promise of an exciting and lucrative future.
Both Kurt and Lee believe that there is light at the end of the tunnel concerning the skills gap in the manufacturing industry. Many are beginning to understand and view a machining career as a valid and exciting opportunity. Kurt ensures that his presentations at job fairs and high schools accurately depict the advanced technological atmosphere that is machining. He shares the diverse culture of the manufacturing world as well. It’s not just men, but women as well, who are finding meaningful work in an industry where their talents are valued. Both young and old are finding new purpose and life in manufacturing.
Lee knows that the manufacturing industry is all about giving back. Many who are in the industry grew up in it and have been a part of the Metal Working Nation for generations. Lee and Kurt believe that investing in the next generation of machinists is vital to the health of the industry. Being able to provide scholarships to currently enrolled students in technical fields of study is a huge part of keeping the manufacturing future strong. Be sure to listen to the whole episode for ideas on how you - as a manufacturing leader - can get involved!
Kurt explains that many of the students who go to the NTMA training centers are excited about the opportunities ahead. Kurt makes sure, however, that they understand the level of hard work required. No, they aren’t going to make 100k in their first couple of years as machinists, but what they do have to look forward to is a lifelong career built on engaging and purposeful work. They can grow as fast as they want in the industry - there’s no limit to what they can learn and accomplish. They are investing in a career that can offer them a sense of pride in their labor and skillset, opportunities in aerospace and government - all while supplying them with a stable career that will enhance their marriage and family life. It takes work. But what an incredible opportunity!