The Problem Facing the Machine Tool Trade Today
For the past twenty-five years high schools all over the nation have been closing their machine shop programs. Small class size, expensive shop equipment leasing, restricted funding*, and an emphasis on four-year-college transfer has led to the demise of most manual arts programs in our high schools. High school counselors now direct 100% of their students towards going on to college and getting a BA. In fact, the number of students going on to a four-year college is their measure of success. Because of this the well of potential machinists has gone dry and large companies have simply abandoned their traditional high-school-to-work apprenticeship programs. The long-standing partnership of student, high school, and manufacturing has evaporated
Today the preponderance of machine tool instruction is at the community college level but they too are under economic pressure to abandon expensive programs. In fact many community colleges have already given up their welding and machine shop curriculums.
Another problem is that there seems to be a prevalent feeling among the masses that machining is an unnecessary and dying trade and there will be no need for machinists in the future. Although it is hard to project a grand outlook like the 60/70s aerospace boom it should be noted that this trade is an important field in every industrialized nation in the world no matter their history or current economy. For example today there are machinists in Hungary, England, Argentina, and South Africa and they all play a vital role in the maintenance of the infrastructure of their country as well as assisting in industrial processes (no matter how small their share of the international manufacturing pie). Machinists are respected and paid extremely well in these nations. It is a skilled and prideful trade worldwide and each country has a need to train and replace them.
.It is my hope that the machinist does not become another lost American heritage.
The Virtual Machine Shop