An email received from Craig Charlton

reprinted with permission

Hi Ron

I just read your article on The Real Problem With The Machinist Trade Today and found it to be as accurate in Canada as it is in the US. I am 39 years old now. I grew up in a city just outside Toronto Ontario. The High School that I attended had all of the standard technical courses Machine Shop, Electrical, Automotive repair, Woodworking etc. I went to that old High School recently, what I found was that none of those courses are being taught today. I got to look inside my old machine shop classroom only to find that all of the machines were still there but were covered with blankets (I guess to keep the dust off). Budget cuts turned out to be the reason for the closures. Unfortunately this is all too common in the High Schools of today.  Let me take you back to grade 9 and tell you a story. 

I entered high school as a hyperactive student who had a hard time sitting through 1.5 hours of classroom style courses. The first semester was tough for me. The guidance counselor suggested some technical courses might be a good fit for me, so I enrolled in all of the technical courses I could. Machine Shop, Automotive repair and Woodworking.  This suited me just fine. No more sitting at a desk in a classroom for extended periods of time, I got to put some of that extra energy to use.

For some reason the machine shop course came easy to me. I had an instructor who saw how quickly I was performing the required tasks and gave me extra projects to do. I stayed in the Machine shop program all through High School enrolling in the co-op program where High School students go to work in industry and receive credits for school. When it was time to make a decision about college the Machine Shop Instructor push me towards taking a Tool and Die course at the local Community College. I did. After graduating from there I got an apprenticeship and then wrote the test to become a licensed Tool and Die Maker. I was licensed at the age of 22. I worked my way around a bunch of jobbing shops in the area I grew up in. There is a high concentration of industry in that area and tool and die shops are easy to find.  

Now we will fast forward to today.  

I now work as a Technical Instructor at Magna Technical Training Centre for Magna International Inc, a large automotive systems and components supplier. Eight Years ago Magna opened a training Centre just outside Toronto Ontario. Its goal was to train technical skills to students in the fields of Tool and Die, Millwright and Electrical. I teach a number of courses including Blue Print Reading, Die Theory, CNC, CAD CAM and Shop Floor. Magna also faces similar issues that plague the industry. There are fewer people entering into the trades as there are leaving it (through retirement).  Magna is no longer relying solely on the public education system to provide their next generation of skilled employees.  The Toronto Training centre was so successful that they since have opened 3 more similar training centres around the world, one in Mexico, one in Austria, and one in Baltimore.  Magna International Inc has also joined forces with a local Community College to open a training centre in Kentucky. 

To summarize, I now work in a technical field because of the courses that were available as I was growing up and because of the Machine Shop teacher who pushed me into this direction. If they were not there at the time I don’t know what I would be doing now. The courses and teachers that got me into a technical field are not in place for students today. Every High school should be teaching trade related subjects. The educational budget cuts have cut deep and I hope the Industry can survive the government’s cost reduction.