Machining Trade Schools Offer an Exciting Alternative to Traditional College Educations with Kurt Preisendanz & Lee Norton

Episode 198 | Challenges: Community Workforce


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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Overcoming the misperception that trade schools aren’t good enough

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. 

engineer-teaching-apprentices-to-use-computerized-TG5VMJRLee 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. 



Machining trade schools offer modern, effective, and exciting opportunities 


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. 


Enabling and inspiring the next generation of manufacturing leaders to take action 

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.

DSC00008-SquareLee 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! 



Guiding students’ expectations towards a stable and meaningful future



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! 


Here’s The Good Stuff!

  • The college price-tag keeps climbing.
  • NTMA Training Centers provide an alternative education route. 
  • The California Manufacturing Workforce Foundation enables students to achieve their goals.
  • Why do parents and teachers continue to look down on trade schools? 
  • Machining trade schools help close the manufacturing skills gap. 
  • Technological advancements in manufacturing are enticing incentives. 
  • The diverse and rich culture of the manufacturing industry. 
  • Machining trade schools offer a promising and lucrative future. 


Tools & Takeaways


This Week’s Superstar Guests: Kurt Preisendanz & Lee Norton


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Jason Zenger: Jim, I know that you have a vast amount of experience from the years in CNC machining. But-

Jim Carr: I do, I do.

Jason Zenger: For the MetalWorkingNation out there who doesn't have all that experience, or maybe somebody that's in supply chain who wants to learn a little bit more about CNC machining, you know that Xometry has design guides that could be very helpful in their positions.

Jim Carr: Yeah, I'm utilizing Xometry to manufacture some of my overloaded work, and this is a great introductory page, it's And what it does is, it goes through the different various offerings they have like sheet metal fabrication, plastic injection molding, castings, laser centering. So if you don't know what part you have, you can utilize this design guide page on Xometry to kind of figure out where you fall in the manufacture of reticular product or application.

Jim Carr: And again, it's, start there.

Jim Carr: Welcome to MakingChips, we believe, and we know that manufacturing is challenging, but if you are connected to a community of leaders, you can elevate your skills, solve your problems, and hopefully grow your business.

Jim Carr: I'm your host Jim Carr, and I'm joined in our remote studio location today in Santa Fe Springs, California with my good friend, co-host five years-

Jason Zenger: Brains behind the organization.

Jim Carr: Well, I wouldn't go that far. Jason, JZ Zenger.

Jason Zenger: Hey Jim, how you doing?

Jim Carr: I'm okay, I'm good.

Jason Zenger: We're here in L.A. county still.

Jim Carr: Yeah, we are and I'm having a great time. We're meeting so many cool people.

Jason Zenger: It's been great.

Jim Carr: You know what is awesome about this community of people? Everyone's here to help elevate the industry together.

Jason Zenger: Yeah. It's very similar to [Out by us 00:02:06].

Jim Carr: Yeah, well I think it's a world-wide community of makers that-

Jason Zenger: Manufacturing leaders.

Jim Carr: Yeah, manufacturing leaders. We really want to help each other, and elevate ourselves to the next, and solve the problems together, just like we always say, "It's part of our mantra and our mission of why we started the podcast in the first place."

Jason Zenger: Absolutely.

Jim Carr: So it's been a great experience so far. Again, shout out to Katie from the NTMA L.A. for inviting us here today, and letting us meet and interview these fantastic guests. Today we're going to talk a little bit about the high cost of a college education, and let's compare that to what an education would be like in CNC machining.

Jason Zenger: Yeah, I mean CNC machining is the highest paying job that you can get without a college education, that's my understanding, and we want to talk about how we can bring more people into this industry because I think it's silly not to at least consider this industry if college isn't your choice.

Jim Carr: Yeah, but some people-

Jason Zenger: Or your privilege [crosstalk 00:03:11].

Jim Carr: ... It's not for everybody, right?

Jason Zenger: No, of course not. Just like college isn't for everybody, manufacturing isn't for everybody.

Jim Carr: Yeah. You've got to have some more.

Jason Zenger: It's a basic skills, some math skills, some understanding of computers now.

Jim Carr: Oh that's huge. Mechanical aptitude-

Jason Zenger: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jim Carr: ... And just fundamentals of the industry. But before we move on, and introduce our guests, we always do every week, tell the MetalWorkingNation what's going on at Zenger's Industrial or Black Industrial.

Jason Zenger: Things are moving forward. It's kind of funny. I just check my email and things... I got an email from-

Jim Carr: How many do you have?

Jason Zenger: Oh, I don't always go through all my emails as you know. I don't read any [crosstalk 00:03:46].

Jim Carr: Oh yeah, I do know that.

Jason Zenger: But I just saw an email come through from the attorney that's working on our succession planning, and what he said in the last email was that he's accepting the changes that I want to make to the contract. So I think we're like-

Jim Carr: To get attorney's [crosstalk 00:04:00].

Jason Zenger: Well, we have an attorney that he's representing both of us, and I think we finally come to an agreement on things. So I think we're 99.9% done with the contract. And so, I'm hopefully this month I'll be ready to sign the document, and start buying out the company from my dad, so that'll be good.

Jim Carr: Damn. That's awesome.

Jason Zenger: Yeah, I'm overpaying a little bit. Just a little bit, but that's okay. It's for dad.

Jim Carr: You're never going to be happy. Please don't cry.

Jason Zenger: No, I'm not crying.

Jim Carr: Please don't cry.

Jason Zenger: I'm not crying.

Jim Carr: Okay.

Jason Zenger: I'm not crying.

Jim Carr: You are a big boy.

Jason Zenger: Dad gave me a lot of opportunities. He gave me a lot of-

Jim Carr: He sure did.

Jason Zenger: He gave me this opportunity to work on MakingChips. I mean he could have gone to me and said, "You know what, if you want to just MakingChips thing, do it on your own time. No, he could've.

Jim Carr: He could've.

Jason Zenger: He could've and he didn't, so he's given me a lot of rope, and so it's okay. I want my parents to be happy in their retirement and everything. So we're going to move on with this.

Jim Carr: You're a good son Jason Zenger.

Jason Zenger: I try.

Jim Carr: I know you do.

Jason Zenger: I got good parents, and good other people around me, so it's good thing.

Jim Carr: I'm happy to hear that.

Jason Zenger: So you need to figure that out for your class too.

Jim Carr: I know. Well, it's funny, just before we hit the record button, my son Ryan is everyone knows is my operations manager bag a car in Chicago, and I just got a text from him, and I'm thinking, "Man, this kid is really stepping it up." Honestly, I felt really bad about leaving them in the firestorm that I left them in.

Jason Zenger: I can do this without you. It's fine. You could have stayed.

Jim Carr: Dude, if you feel you can do without me, you're more than welcome to.

Jason Zenger: Oh, I'm kidding.

Jim Carr: Yeah, I know you are. But it's funny. If you empower the people that you work with, they're going to take it, and they're going to move to the next level. And I'm really happy with what I'm hearing that's happening already in just the short 23 hours that I've been.

Jason Zenger: Well then why don't you start giving him some of those tasks that keep bagging it down.

Jim Carr: I'm a little scared.

Jason Zenger: I think you're a little bit of a control freak.

Jim Carr: Oh, there's no question.

Jason Zenger: I can probably empathize with Ryan a little bit since we are in business together, and I know that you are a control freak. It's just that I can say no to you. He doesn't really probably have that option.

Jim Carr: I control his finances.

Jason Zenger: Exactly.

Jim Carr: So no, he better be careful about what he says to me.

Jason Zenger: Exactly. But maybe you should put him into that integrator role.

Jim Carr: I do tell him when he's doing well because he's doing well.

Jason Zenger: Yeah, good.

Jim Carr: It's refreshing.

Jason Zenger: They can be integrator. Get out of that role.

Jim Carr: Yeah. Oh, he's definitely not a visionary. He's definitely an integrator. But anyway, you want to tell the people the MetalWorkingNation maybe our guests that are sitting here waiting for us to introduce them. What is the boring bar? What the hell is the boring bar?

Jason Zenger: Well you don't have to swear. First of all.

Jim Carr: I know. Oh, I didn't.

Jason Zenger: And the boring bar is our newsletter that we send out once a week, and it's more than just the podcast. So we send out information when a podcast, first releases, but we also have a lot of original articles that we write during the boring bar. And it's just another perspective on the manufacturing industry. It's be quite honest, Jim and I have nothing to do with it. We only do the podcast, but there's a lot of other content that comes out in MakingChips.

Jim Carr: Well it's relevant. It's connected, right? It's connected information about the podcast. So the podcast is the fundamental part of it [crosstalk 00:06:59].

Jason Zenger: Right and then other content is written related to what we discuss. So like maybe expanding a topic or something like that in the written form.

Jim Carr: And people can get links to all the guests that are going to show for that particular week.

Jason Zenger: And now we have our furry face friend who does a vlog, once a week too. So if you want to see the guy with the big beard on YouTube, subscribe to the boring bar, and you'll get those vlogs, and even some more for MakingChips.

Jim Carr: How did they subscribed to the boring bar.

Jason Zenger: So you're going to text chips, C-H-I-P-S, to 38470.

Jim Carr: That's easy.

Jason Zenger: Yup.

Jim Carr: Super easy peasy.

Jason Zenger: Yup.

Jim Carr: Was it your idea?

Jason Zenger: Probably. No this is one of the few ideas that wasn't mine.

Jim Carr: Okay, well whoever did it, kudos to them. That's easy. They don't hit to enter an email address. They just got to put in five small letters, right?

Jason Zenger: Correct.

Jim Carr: Chips.

Jason Zenger: Chips, 38470. You got it.

Jim Carr: Cool.

Jason Zenger: So what do we got for manufacturing news?

Jim Carr: We're going to be talking about college, and what it costs nowadays. I found an article in Forbes that's titled price of college increasing almost eight times faster than wages. I mean, you can imagine. I saw that headline, and I'm like, "Wow, that's craziness."

Jason Zenger: Well, it almost makes me... And I'm going to go off on a little bit of a [crosstalk 00:08:12].

Jim Carr: You're in trouble dude. You got four kids.

Jason Zenger: It almost makes me sick to my stomach because I know these college professors are just making so much money for brainwashing our kids.

Jim Carr: Well, you shouldn't say that.

Jason Zenger: Well, it's true. I mean they have an agenda, and it's sickening. You know how much tuition has gone up. It really is.

Jim Carr: They say that student loans make up the largest chunk of US non-housing debt that in quarter one 18 the total amount was $1.47 trillion.

Jason Zenger: Yeah, and the solution is not that college should be free. The solution is that we have too many professors making too much money. I'm sorry, I'm going to say it.

Jim Carr: You did.

Jason Zenger: I think the more that money should go to the high school teachers, and the grade school teachers are probably teaching more applicable skills than the colleges are.

Jim Carr: Okay, so-

Jason Zenger: If that doesn't go for all of it-

Jim Carr: But you went to college.

Jason Zenger: Yeah I did.

Jim Carr: Why did your parents choose to do the-

Jason Zenger: I went to college to become an engineer.

Jim Carr: Okay.

Jason Zenger: So I was in the engineering school. But what I'm talking about is that there's a lot of just a lot of kids that are getting educations in areas that are just inconsequential to their future. And it's ridiculous. It really is. I mean, I'm sorry.

Jim Carr: So, do you think that these kids are going to college just to party for four years and-

Jason Zenger: Oh, absolutely.

Jim Carr: Yeah.

Jason Zenger: Yeah, a lot of them.

Jim Carr: It either their mom and dad are paying for that tuition, and moving forwards.

Jason Zenger: That's another project. I didn't think about that. But that's another problem. Yeah.

Jim Carr: And they pay in for that.

Jason Zenger: Absolutely.

Jim Carr: And they come out with a degree that really doesn't do anything. And they learned how to drink a 12 pack of beer in 60 minutes.

Jason Zenger: And they learned skills that are just not going to be useful.

Jim Carr: Versus what we're going to talk about today about how you can apply a really short amount of time, effort, and money, and maybe the employer would even pay for that.

Jason Zenger: Yeah. And you have no debt. And you're making good money, and you have a job where you're creating things, and you're learning, and you're getting into a robotics, and computers, and data, and all that other kind of fun stuff.

Jim Carr: Sounds like a ray of sunshine to me.

Jason Zenger: Right.

Jim Carr: Yeah. But again, college isn't for everybody, and neither is manufacturing.

Jason Zenger: Right. We need less political science majors.

Jim Carr: I agree with that. So I could go on more about the optical, but it's-

Jason Zenger: Yeah, me too. I'll step off my soapbox.

Jim Carr: Yeah, you better stop now by your ahead. Did you want to introduce our guests? Because I totally like to... I have so many questions for them to-

Jason Zenger: Off letting kill the mood too much. But yeah, I will definitely introduce our guests. As Jim mentioned, we're today we're at the NTMA of L.A, and we have two gentlemen that I'm going to introduce, and then they're going to tell us a little bit more about what they do. So our first guest is Kurt Prize and dance. He's a trainer at the NTMA Training Centers. Our second guest is Lee Norton, who's a board member at the California Manufacturing Workforce Foundation. Welcome, gentlemen.

Kurt: Thank you.

Lee: Thank you.

Jason Zenger: So we're at an NTMA L.A Networking Event. We are just a bunch of... Let's just say we're having a glass of wine. There's a bunch of-

Jim Carr: Jason we're not. There is no wine.

Jason Zenger: Yeah I know, I know we're pretending.

Jim Carr: We're not doing any of that right now. We're interviewing.

Jason Zenger: No, we're just pretending Jim for a minute.

Jim Carr: Oh, okay.

Jason Zenger: Yeah. We have beer-

Jim Carr: Because you said wine. And I went, "Oh my God, where is the wine."

Jason Zenger: Don't get excited.

Jim Carr: I'm missing out on something here.

Jason Zenger: Don't get excited. We've got a beer or wine or a water, whatever your drink of choice is. And somebody comes up to you, and says, "Hey Kurt, what do you do here?"

Kurt: Well, basically I'm director of training. What I do is I oversee the instructors as far as the program goes. I make sure that everyone, all the instructors have everything they need. I promote the school, just do about just about everything I can.

Jason Zenger: So you're making sure that, that student who walks in the door doesn't know anything about machining. He walks out the door with a job offer.

Kurt: Oh, absolutely.

Jason Zenger: And a great future.

Kurt: Oh yeah. This school is incredible.

Jason Zenger: That's great.

Jim Carr: Correct.

Kurt: I mean, I've been machining since 1974, and when I started working here I was in awe of just the success that our students have. And you guys said some interesting things about college, and about students coming out of high school, and they're pushed to the point of going to universities. It's just terrible. We get graduates with degrees in history, can't find a job, and they come through this program. They start working after seven months. I go to the job fairs or I go to the high school career fairs, and there's a lot of parents behind them that don't understand, especially the moms with their kids. And they see our table as a trade school and they kind, "Ah, this is not from my son." Really?

Jim Carr: Because they don't know anything about it.

Kurt: Don't know anything about it.

Jim Carr: Yeah.

Kurt: And I go to high schools in front of 600 seniors, and do a presentation. Does anybody know what a machinist is? Not one hand goes up.

Jim Carr: Wow.

Kurt: When I went to school, there was a shop class. Everyone knew what a machinist is.

Jim Carr: You're absolutely.

Jason Zenger: Absolutely.

Jim Carr: So Lee, why don't you go ahead, and introduce yourself. Give us your 60 to 90 second bio elevator pitch. Tell us everything you know about manufacturing in 90 seconds in your experience with it.

Lee: Thank you, Jim.

Jim Carr: You're welcome.

Lee: And thank you Jason for letting me be here today. I am a board member for a foundation called the California Manufacturing Workforce Foundation. We are a 501(C)(3) charity, and we use our donations to provide tuition, and expense funding for currently enrolled students on technical tracks, and community colleges, and technical schools. And we were founded in 2017 with a lot of help from the Los Angeles chapter of the National Tooling and Machining Association at the time. A few of the board members did a lot of work to get this 501(C)()3 charity setup because the biggest challenge we refining for all of our members at that time was finding skilled people to hire, to fill all of the open positions that we had at our companies.

Lee: So we setup this foundation so that we could provide scholarships to people wanting to pursue careers in manufacturing, and support them in that while at the same time solving one of the biggest problems that manufacturers in California have.

Jim Carr: I agree.

Lee: Great.

Jason Zenger: We just finished up an interview, a panel discussion with three manufacturing leaders, they own shops, and we talked about the skills gap, and how big of a problem that is. And I want to continue this conversation with you Kurt. Before Jim interrupted you, you were really on a great [crosstalk 00:14:30].

Lee: I know, I know. I'm trying to pull back a little bit.

Jason Zenger: But go ahead with what you were saying because I think you were definitely in a right direction.

Jim Carr: You were and I apologize for that.

Kurt: Well I just think that a lot of the teachers, and parents are pushing her kids for four year universities thinking that the trade school is not for their little kid, and then what's funny because they'll come back later and said, "I have a son that this would be good for him." What does that mean?

Jason Zenger: What does that mean?

Kurt: I don't know. [crosstalk 00:14:55].

Jason Zenger: He's the troublemaker and they want... I don't know. And I understand what you're saying, and I'm going to throw my wife under the bus a little bit because she doesn't want to listen to me on the podcast. Jim and I have talked about, if his wife doesn't listen either.

Jim Carr: My wife doesn't listen [crosstalk 00:15:06] through her eyes glaze over when you start talking manufacturing. So my wife would come from the standpoint of my kids are going to go to college and I don't think my wife is any different than a lot of people out there where it's kind of a pride thing. It's like I want to be able to tell my friends that my kids went to college. I mean, am I right?

Jason Zenger: Well, do you think that the parents think, well my kid didn't make it because he didn't go to college. He just went into a trade right away.

Jim Carr: Yeah I think they might think lesser, and it's unfortunate. I mean [crosstalk 00:15:37] my kid's doing really well. He's working with robots, he's programming machines. I mean, I think that you should be able to stand tall to say that's what you hear.

Kurt: Well, I think here it's fishing the states. People are conditioned to think that way. You go to Europe, and the kid gets out of high school, you're in a trade or you're in a four year university. It doesn't look any different to a parent. It's like this is a skill set. My dad migrated from Germany, he's got his apprenticeship in Germany from Siemens Pacesetter came over here, opened up a machine shop, and that's how I started working for him.

Jason Zenger: Oh, you're kidding.

Jim Carr: So he was an entrepreneur.

Kurt: Absolutely. He went, and he got it, and he got a self a shop, and the next thing you know, it took off. And I was in the trade. I wasn't sure if I wanted to be a machinist. I think I wanted to be a rock star for many years.

Jim Carr: I did too.

Kurt: [crosstalk 00:16:22]. But the whole thing is that finally, after a few years, well, I'm guessing I'm pretty good at this. So I continued it, and I put both of my kids in this program. My daughter and my son.

Jim Carr: Awesome.

Kurt: And as a dad, I would never put a child of mine in a program mightn't believe in or a trade that I didn't believe in.

Jim Carr: And they're there doing well now.

Kurt: They're doing excellent. My daughter just moved to Texas last week because of the jobs out there, and the housing is cheaper, and everything, but she landed a job in an instant, just made some phone calls.

Jim Carr: And what is she doing?

Kurt: She's actually doing diamond turning.

Jason Zenger: Oh wow.

Jim Carr: That's really niche, that's a niche.

Kurt: Her first job NTMA she was growing sapphires, so they were using that for the lenses, for tracking devices, things of that nature.

Jim Carr: Okay. And now how about your son?

Kurt: He's working for a defense contractor out in Paris, and he's been out for about five or six years. Live tooling multi-axis machines. Oh yeah. It's just, he shows me pictures of stuff he makes now it's like "Wow." And you know what, they didn't go to college. And I am more proud of them for dude, they're making bank.

Jason Zenger: I'm sure they are.

Kurt: And they have all many loan to pay back.

Jason Zenger: Yeah, that's awesome.

Jim Carr: That's fantastic. And what about you Lee? What's your take on the skills gap that we have going on right now?

Lee: Well, you know, I'll talk a little out of both sides of my mouth here. You know my son, he works in a machine shop. He's 18 years, old and just graduated high school but he's also going to college because he wants to learn about business because he really wants to own his own machine shop, and his own manufacturing company. And I'm fully supportive of that, I think it's wonderful. Everything that he's learning now in that-

Jim Carr: But is got in that [inaudible 00:17:52] of going into college, he's saying I want to learn business skills so that I could do this in the future. He's not just going there to have a good time.

Lee: Absolutely.

Jim Carr: And learn education, that doesn't have any foundation. So, that's good that he's doing that.

Lee: Yes, absolutely. We're very proud of him, and our daughter is wanting to go into engineering and she's his twin. So she's also just graduated high school, and continuing her education. But as far as as the skills gap goes, I don't think there's enough knowledge happening with young people to let them know about the opportunities that exist in manufacturing. There's a lot of good jobs, career kind of jobs that are available in manufacturing, and nobody knows about it.

Jason Zenger: What? Is it a secret? Where are we dropping the ball on this?

Lee: Well, I go back to when I was growing up, and it happened like in the movies. When I was a kid, that movie came out with Richard Gere where he was in that small town, an officer and a gentleman.

Jason Zenger: Yes I remember that.

Lee: And it was like if the hero, the movie... If she doesn't make things work in her relationship, then she's going to be doomed to a life of factory work in her small town. And wouldn't that just be the worst thing ever? Or that other movie with Eminem called eight mile, where if he doesn't accomplish his goal, and make it as a rap star, he's going to be doomed to a life of factory work in Detroit, Michigan. And wouldn't that just be the worst thing that ever happened to anybody right?

Jim Carr: Well it doesn't look like that dirty job anymore, and we really need to fix that. I mean you go to like in Detroit, you go to an auto manufacturer, and it's all robotics. It's different than that.

Jason Zenger: We talk a lot about the skills gap, and do you think it's as grave of an issue as everyone is portraying it or the media or all of us manufacturing owners? You both are very ingrained in seeing the training firsthand. Is it a serious, serious problem?

Kurt: No, I think that there's a shortage definitely, but I do believe that there's a light to this whole thing because I think a lot of people are starting to realize of just a tons of jobs that are in machining and manufacturing that this is starting to look a little better. I think a lot of parents are now looking at the loans that their children went to college, and now they had to pay back that she's loan, and they don't have a job. I think death becoming a like, "Wow, this is might not be such a good idea." So I think they're looking at trades a lot harder. I think that the high schools are starting to turn a little bit because whenever I do a presentation in the high school, the teachers are always warm, and they say, "Man, this is needed."

Jim Carr: So what does that presentation look like?

Kurt: Well, my presentation for the high school basically the thought of be there to kind of sell the school. Right? I'm giving them information at this point because they don't know. So I'm just giving them videos of like you're saying, old school, world war II factory, and then modern day machine shot, and how there's men and women in manufacturing, not just men. Goes onto Riveter that the whole thing had happened in world war II. They were the machinist.

Jim Carr: So if you think about that business owner in the middle of Nebraska or the middle of Oklahoma or in the suburbs of Chicago or California, could they make that same presentation to their high school if they wanted to change that perception? I feel like we almost-

Jason Zenger: It should we.

Jim Carr: I think we should. I feel like we need to see almost like a wave of manufacturing leaders out there contacting their high school, and saying, "I want to present this opportunity to the students there." I mean, could they make that presentation that you do?

Kurt: They could. I think if business owners, and machining don't get involved then we're going to have a little bit of a problem. But I think that from what I can see, most machine shops that, they like to give back. I think they could do that if they really wanted to. And I think NTMA and our shots that hire from us, they are that kind of companies. And we need to, we need to shine a light on this whole thing because there's so many jobs, we get calls for more students and we don't have enough students. There's just that many jobs out there.

Jim Carr: I'm glad that you talk about how much the manufacturers in California want to give back, and that's exactly how our foundation was setup. It's setup by shop owners that want to solve the largest problem, which is creating a skilled workforce for the future of our industry. And there's some really great rewards that happen through supporting a foundation like ours, and working for workforce development. And some of those are, it helps to prevent foreign outsourcing. It provides workers to prevent firms from leaving our region, keeps our training centers and schools vital. It keeps young people interested in manufacturing careers. It promotes a sense of pride within our workforce.

Jason Zenger: Sure it does.

Jim Carr: It allows families, and marriages more stability, and it helps families buy homes, not just dream of them. So highly skilled, and trained workers have opportunities in the automotive, aerospace, government, and consumer product industries. And this leads to an improved national economy, and more robust local economies. So all you gotta do is go to and you can donate today or if you're a student you can apply for a scholarship to all takes.

Jason Zenger: Jim, I know that you have a vast amount of experience from the years in CNC machining, but for the MetalWorkingNation out there who doesn't have all that experience or maybe somebody that's in supply chain who wants to learn a little bit more about CNC machining. You know that Xometry has design guides that could be very helpful in their positions.

Jim Carr: Yeah, I'm utilizing Xometry to manufacturer some of my overloaded work, and this has a great introductory page. It's And what it does is it goes through the different various offerings they have like sheet metal fabrication, CNC machine design guide, plastic injection molding, castings, injection molding, and laser centering. So if you don't know what part you have, you can utilize this design guide page on Xometry to kind of figure out where you fall in the manufacturer of a particular product or application. So it's a great resource to have. And again, it's start there.

Jason Zenger: So I think one of the things that we could do as manufacturing leaders, and Jim, maybe you and I need to talk about this, and we can talk to Kurt about this too, is let's put together a presentation that they can just grab from us, and bring it to their schools, and present it because it's as simple as saying this is your perception or you don't even understand manufacturing, but this is what it really is. And any CEO of a manufacturing company out there could make that presentation. But we need to get boots on the street locally all across the United States to be able to do that. So I mean if the MetalWorkingNation is out there listening and you would like something like that, if we can help in that, let us know.

Jim Carr: Well, especially with manufacturing day, fast approaching in October, and I'm not sure of what day it is in October, but that would be the perfect time. Not necessarily the only time. You could do it anytime during the year, but that would be the perfect time to coordinate that all together.

Jason Zenger: Absolutely.

Jim Carr: So guys, the industry has evolved so much, at least since 1973 when my dad found at our family machine shop in Chicago. The industry now is just so widely technological. Is that what is attracting this new group of talent in students to our industry? If not, what is it? What do you think it is? Because I think that if we recognize what that shiny object is that's attracting everyone to the thing, it's kind of like a marketing plan, right? So we need to identify what those characteristics are that are attracting these students. We know all about, a lot of the shop owners are paying for the tuition for them to go to the NTMA Training Center. There is no debt when they come out. They're making money while they train, and then certainly as their skill evolves, they're really going way up on the income level.

Jason Zenger: So you're asking like, what does that student get excited about when they-

Jim Carr: What's their shiny object that they see at the end of the tunnel? I don't know what it is. I'm not 19 anymore. I just got into the industry because my dad's says, "Why don't you do it?" And I said, "I looked at his career and I looked, I said, he's got pretty good life. If I can do half his good, I'll be happy." So what do you think that shiny object is that these young people nowadays are being attracted to in our industry?

Lee: Well, I think it definitely is helped by the technology, and some of the exciting things that are, that are happening in advancements in that area. But I still think it's a lot of the same way like with you, it's a family. If you're brought up in it, then you know about it. It's how I was introduced to manufacturing. It goes back to my great grandfather in 1938 that started the metal stamping and Chrome plating factory in Vernon that my grandfather and my father and I, myself worked at. But what's exciting now is the robotics programs that are in high schools that are... I think getting more of an introduction to young people that there is stuff getting made out there in the world.

Lee: But I still don't think they're drawn connecting the dots to let them know that there's careers out there where they can go, and have a meaningful career as a machinist or in a technical career in manufacturing. I still think the high schools are dropping the ball there a lot, and teaching kids that the only avenue is a four year bachelor's degree. I think there's more education about letting them know that the kids that are interested in that kind of stuff can get started more quickly.

Jim Carr: What do you think? What's that shiny thing that they're looking at?

Kurt: I agree it's just the automation of it all. Just-

Jim Carr: Like robotics.

Kurt: Yeah, robotics CNC machine, just all that. I mean, when they see something being made by a five axis CNC machine.

Jim Carr: That's pretty cool.

Kurt: It is, hey, it blows me away.

Jim Carr: Me too.

Kurt: I've been in the trade a long time and I still, stuff comes up, and I look at and go, "Wow, that's amazing." And when you see that, and you see these objects being made, I think they get excited. The conventional side of it, conventional machining. That's old school.

Jason Zenger: Are you teaching conventional machining here?

Kurt: Oh yeah. We have to.

Jim Carr: [crosstalk 00:28:44] we walk right by it.

Kurt: Yeah. We have mills, and lays, and that's because we want to teach them how something's made, and then they can take that, and then they can tell the machine how to make that. They have to know how it's made before they can tell a machine how they will make it.

Jason Zenger: Interesting.

Jim Carr: I've heard different theories on that. I've heard the theory that you start them out in the software, start them off the CAD cam software, and then move them over to the CNC machine, and they don't necessarily have to learn the manual machines first.

Kurt: Yeah. I don't know. It just gives a person an idea that they can do anything. It's like, "Yeah, I'm going to drill up really tiny hole five inches deep, well I get it. That's not going to happen."

Jim Carr: No. You're going to have to put a lot of pressure on that drill on the quill before the-

Jason Zenger: Yeah.

Jim Carr: And you better tighten up the quills stop a little bit because it's going to want to-

Kurt: Yeah, exactly.

Jim Carr: Dig back a little bit.

Kurt: And those techniques it applies to CNC. It's like an engineer, if you don't know machining here, make that. Really. They don't know they can be made.

Jim Carr: Or like a manual pack. You're doing it on the quill, you're going [inaudible 00:29:38], and you're creating the chip and then boom!, you pop it a little bit to break the chip. They're doing the same thing with the GAD one and a CNC machine.

Kurt: Exactly. Exactly.

Jim Carr: So yeah, I get it.

Kurt: And we spend... We'd go about maybe 12 15 weeks on the conventional side, and we start prepping him for the CNC. It's all prep towards CNC every [crosstalk 00:29:57] obviously from step one.

Jim Carr: What is the track here? Are they learning? So they're starting off in the manuals and then they're moving to CNC. Are they also learning robotics?

Kurt: We show them robotics, but we're not heavy into the robotics right now.

Jim Carr: Okay. Is that something that you're looking to for the future?

Kurt: Oh yeah. Yeah. We always do, and we do touch on certain subjects, but our main focus is the nucleus of machining, which is what we do.

Jim Carr: And what is that exactly?

Kurt: Turning and milling.

Jim Carr: Okay.

Kurt: That's the two, that's a two-

Jim Carr: The fundamental.

Kurt: That's a fundamentals. And our whole purpose here is our mission is to prepare qualified candidates for entry level jobs.

Jim Carr: Okay.

Kurt: And seven months, you talked to anybody that's been in the field a long time, seven months. You do not have machinists after seven months.

Jim Carr: They don't have a machinist after seven months.

Kurt: It's just a start.

Jim Carr: Hell no.

Jason Zenger: But they're done with your training after a seven month period of time.

Kurt: Correct. And we do have-

Jason Zenger: Is that like in the evenings or is that-

Kurt: Oh it's five days a week, and we have three sessions available. Morning, afternoon, evening.

Jason Zenger: And how many hours a day?

Kurt: Four and a half.

Jason Zenger: Four and a half hours a day. And for seven months. And then they come out with the certificate that says they're-

Kurt: A certificate of completion.

Jason Zenger: Okay. Got you.

Kurt: And we have career services, lifetime support on that. We've prepped them for job interviews, and like anything else, we don't guarantee anyone a job. I mean, if you don't want to work, you won't work. And so, our students, we tell them that. I mean, if you don't want to work, you're not going to find a job. But if you-

Jim Carr: Well no, it's just like if you don't want to eat, you're not going to eat right?

Kurt: That's right.

Jim Carr: And if you don't want it, if you don't want it, you're not going to get it right?

Kurt: Oh, yeah absolutely. We supply the opportunity.

Jim Carr: Yes.

Kurt: We give them interviews and this, and we will send you wherever for life. But if you walk in that interview, and you just don't want to answer the questions that's on you.

Jim Carr: Well, what does a typical student look like? Are they 18 years old in their 20s you get some people coming back. They want to have a career change.

Kurt: We get all that.

Jim Carr: Okay.

Kurt: We really do runs the gamut. I've seen guys retired just wanting to do some different.

Jim Carr: It's that diverse?

Kurt: Yeah.

Jim Carr: Do you see different challenges with somebody that might 35 or 40 or 60, and wants to get trained in something new versus the student that's 18 or 19 years old?

Kurt: It varies because sometimes if you're a little more mature, I think you're taking a little more seriously because your mindset, you got work ethic. Well you know younger people that come in here, they want to do it. It varies. I think our age group fluctuation is between 25 and 32. So in that area is most of our students.

Jim Carr: Is the continuing training here at the NTMA? Is it only exclusive to NTMA members or if I had a shop here in Santa Fe Springs, and I was not an NTMA member, could take advantage of sending one of my new hires?

Kurt: Yeah.

Jim Carr: Okay. It's not exclusive to members only.

Kurt: No, no, no, no, no, no.

Jim Carr: Is it a higher rate? Is it a higher book rate for that student to be trained here or is there a discount for members?

Kurt: Well if you're in the industry, we have the extra training programs. If you're in the industry. We have classes like CNC Mastercam, basic Mastercam, advanced Mastercam Brechtian. Those courses are available for people that are already in the industry, and they're only like 18 weeks.

Jim Carr: I see.

Kurt: That's a whole different program.

Jim Carr: Okay.

Kurt: The seven month program is open to whoever?

Jim Carr: Anybody.

Kurt: Yeah.

Jim Carr: Are the employers typically paying for these students training?

Jason Zenger: Yes. I mean the manufacturing leaders are listening and making chips and they have an untapped workforce out there, so I think setting that expectation like should they be expected to pay for that education? What do you do when that person gets that training and they say, "Well, I'm going to leave, and go somewhere else." Do you see some of those things happening sometimes?

Kurt: Well, I think that on the machinist training program, that's seven months. We don't see a lot of employers paying for that. No.

Jason Zenger: Okay.

Kurt: But the extra training courses, that's where we see more of that.

Jason Zenger: What are those extra training courses? You said inspection.

Kurt: Inspection, Mastercam programming, CNC.

Jason Zenger: What do you see as the future, and the training? Is there any kind of trends that you see where people are getting trained more in a particular area than they had in the past? One of the things that we've discussed before is more Swiss training. Is that something that-

Kurt: [crosstalk 00:34:07] training but we... I think Mastercam is our software training is our biggest-

Jason Zenger: That's one of your most growing-

Jim Carr: It's probably in my opinion. And we use Mastercam in my shop, but it's probably the most powerful cam system on the market now, and it's probably the most widely used across the industry.

Kurt: I would agree.

Jim Carr: It's a very powerful.

Kurt: We do also do like CMM courses that's kind of gas popular too.

Jim Carr: So you have a CMM here on site too.

Kurt: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jim Carr: Interesting.

Kurt: And so then that as popular as well.

Lee: I wanted to go back to your question about the demographics, the ages of the people that are getting into these careers. So from my perspective, the scholarships that we're giving, they're going to young people, which is very exciting. These are people just starting their careers, and that's what we're really excited about. And so far we've given in our short time of existence, three scholarships to young people that were students here at the training center, two scholarships to students at Mount SAC Community College.

Lee: Two scholarships at Glendale Community College, and three scholarships at Long Beach City College, and overwhelmingly these are young people that are beginning their careers that are applying for these scholarships, and that we're helping get started in pursuing a career in manufacturing.

Jim Carr: Lee, what are the prerequisites to get these scholarships?

Lee: That's an excellent question. So the grants there four expenses incurred by students, which may be tuition materials or living costs, and the student must be currently enrolled in a recognized program. So it has to be a technical track, and a community college or some type of technical school. They have to use the funds within six months.

Jim Carr: Oh, in six months. They've got to use it.

Lee: And they need to be located in Southern California, and they need to be looking for career in manufacturing.

Jim Carr: So [inaudible 00:35:59] to San Diego.

Lee: Yes.

Jim Carr: Okay.

Lee: All they need to do really is just go to our website,, and they can apply for the scholarship right there.

Jim Carr: Cool. What are you seeing? What are the expectations of these students that are in these programs? I mean, you've got a young 18 19 year old that's just starting on his career track. He's here learning because somebody told him that this is a great opportunity, that he's just ripe for this industry. You're talking, you're engaging, you have face time with these young people. What do you here? What are the expectations? What do they think is going to happen after these seven months? Do they think they're going to make $100,000 a year in the next two years? Or do they think they're going to have... Is that going to be a cake walk? What are you hearing from them? What's a feedback?

Kurt: Well, I think the biggest thing is they know there's a lot of work out there, and-

Jim Carr: A potential.

Kurt: Yes.

Jim Carr: Yes.

Kurt: We don't really get lost. We tell them right up, you're starting out. You're not going to walk out of here, and making 100K, it ain't going to happen. But they're excited about the future. They can see that machining has such a high ceiling as far as wages go that you could just take it as far as you want to take it. And so I think that's kind of important, and I think that they get excited. The whole thing about machining is the cool factors too as well.

Lee: I think the MTMA Training Centers do a great job of setting the expectations of their students so that when they come out into the workforce center, and are applying for jobs, and they help place all their students in jobs, and I think a really high placement rate. Right? Like [inaudible 00:37:42] 90%.

Kurt: Oh, yeah. Yeah. That's like I said before, if you-

Lee: Like everyone who wants a job that goes through the program gets one pretty much. Right?

Jim Carr: Wow.

Lee: But they do a great job of setting that expectation where when the employers interview the applicants, they're on the same page pretty much about what the wages are to start out in the industry, and what their expectation is of what they're going to be able to accomplish. I think they're just really excited to get started on their career, and start building their life, and they can see that, well maybe we're not talking like $100,000 starting wages. They're seeing a real wage, and a real opportunity to grow, and develop in an industry that can be career.

Jim Carr: And it's certainly is attainable, right?

Lee: Absolutely.

Kurt: Oh, yeah.

Jim Carr: It's just not attainable in year two, maybe unless they are rock star.

Lee: So like anything worth doing in life it takes work.

Jim Carr: It takes work.

Jason Zenger: There's no golden parachute for right away.

Jim Carr: So gentlemen, that was great. That was a great introduction to what you guys are doing in order to get trained. The next generation really show the United States that you don't have to go that college route. You can or you can do them both together. But there's a lot of options out there. And I think certainly becoming trained and CNC is a great option. So thank you.

Jason Zenger: Yeah, it's been a pleasure to meet you guys and share your insight, and knowledge with the MetalWorkingNation. And I hope that we've genuinely equipped, and inspired some manufacturing leaders to follow in our footsteps, and bring the industry to the next level. So, Jim, I think you need to make a presentation at your local high school and let them know-

Jim Carr: I really think I am, I know what do-

Jason Zenger: You need more people [crosstalk 00:39:16].

Jim Carr: I do need more people, and it's funny, you were reading my mind. What do you know that I need to do that, and I probably need to do that for manufacturing.

Jason Zenger: So why don't you come up with a presentation, and manufacturing leaders out there-

Jim Carr: Can you do that [crosstalk 00:39:28]. You've got more time to night on your hands and me.

Jason Zenger: Do I.

Jim Carr: Yes, you do. Yeah, I think so, but no, I'll help you with it. Absolutely. Or we can delegate and elevate. Right?

Jason Zenger: You're hilarious.

Jim Carr: Yes, I know. But yeah, I think we should do that. I think the manufacturing leaders out there, if you've made that presentation, maybe we'll talk to Kurt and see what he presents. Because I think that if we can get a tsunami of manufacturing leaders out there to contact our middle schools, contact their high schools and say, "I want to talk to your students about one of the biggest industries here in the United States, and one of the highest pain industries where you don't have to go to college in order to make six figures." Eventually I think that they would be open to that.

Jason Zenger: Sure. So how do people get in touch with you?

Jim Carr: They text me.

Jason Zenger: With me or Nick or the two gentleman that we just interviewed.

Jim Carr: They text chips to 38470 or they can email us and you and I will get a copy of that and we would love to hear back about what you're doing in your local community in order to change the perception of manufacturing.

Jason Zenger: Absolutely. We got to start making more chips because if you're not educating the next generation, you're not making money. Bam.

Speaker 5: Thanks for listening to the MakingChips Podcast. Jim and Jason knew that the MetalWorkingNation, the community of world-class makers, needed it to commit to a new way of leading to stay ahead of the competition. So MakingChips was created to fill that void, to give you advice from other manufacturing leaders who can push you to take action. Your manufacturing challenges have a solution, and many of them are

Jason Zenger: Okay, so Jim's had four glasses of wine and he-

Jim Carr: No, no. I have not.

Jason Zenger: [inaudible 00:41:21]


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