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MFGMonkey Episode 8 Eric Barge: Diploma V.S. Certificate

MFG Monkey | Career Tech


Today we talk with my good friend Eric Barge. We discuss what skills kids are getting at career tech schools versus traditional high school.  We also delve into “College for All” being falsely advertised to our kids we talk about how schools are doing a disservice to students by not focusing on information Literacy, Financial Literacy, and Computer Science Literacy. Then following all that up with New College vs Old College -2-year / 4-year certificates V.S. Associates V.S. Bachelor. 


Eric Barge, Engineering and Architectural Design Instructor



If you have any questions, comments, or topics you just want to hear about let us know. 


Listen to the podcast here



MFGMonkey Episode 8 Eric Barge: Diploma V.S. Certificate

Welcome so much. I am excited about this episode. Everything up to this point has been serious and almost gloom and doom with the China virus thing, the Corona, and people in survival mode in the manufacturing industry. In this episode, we have Eric Barge, whom I’ve known since we were kids, right, Eric? 


Interestingly enough, we both ended up in the manufacturing world and in very different roles. Eric and I were roommates right out of high school, and we both went to JVS, Joint Vocational School, in Piqua, Ohio, during our junior and senior years. We did a lot of AutoCAD growing up and working in engineering fields. Eric went on. You’re an actual mechanical engineer, right, Eric? 


Eric, why don’t you give everyone your 30-second elevator spiel about who you are and what you do now? 

Now, I’m a Career Technical teacher at Springfield Clark CTC. I studied Mechanical Engineering at both Edison State and University. I went on to get an education degree at the University of Wright State Wrong College. I studied a pre-engineering program at Upper Valley JVS. That led to a 2 plus 2 back in the days when it was called for college. I went to Edison State through the 2 plus 2 and then continued on to Dayton. You and I both worked in Sydney at the time. I worked at a company called Thermo Seal. We made gaskets and sealing material, and you worked for a survey company. 

Choice One Engineering. 

It’s been a whirlwind ride, starting with engineering and moving into education. 

I was talking to Matt Guse with MRS Machine. Matt has a huge passion for teaching our youth, and he has a very youthful shop. I think he told me they employ 47 people of an average age of 30 years old in his shop. It’s interesting to me, and one of the things that inspired me to do this show is to help inspire our kids and youth, your students, and anyone who reads us talking about serious stuff on this show.

We talk about not-so-serious stuff, but all is relevant to engineering and manufacturing in some fashion. What you’re doing teaching-wise is awesome for getting our youth involved in manufacturing. Rich Brown, who’s been on the show, gave me statistics that Kentucky is the number one state for educating skilled labor in the United States. That’ll be interesting what happens. 

It’s funny for you to say that because Kentucky, for the last few years, it’s hosted the Skills USA national championships for the career technical schools that take their best of their best from each state to compete, and Kentucky has got a good reputation going on down there. 

Where do you guys usually compete? 

Well, usually starts at a regional level. My kids compete in mechanical drafting and architectural design. Once you get out of the regional, you go to state, which is held there in Columbus at the convention center. The top three in the region go to the state, and then the top person who places in the state moves on to nationals. I’ve had one kid, actually two, but one of them was my kid, but another teacher was working with him, but one of my drafting kids actually placed, I think, 13 out of 53 and Nationals because they include Washington, DC, Puerto Rico, and some other stuff. Thirteenth in the nation makes you feel good. 

What is that kid going to do? Has he graduated? 

Yeah. This was a couple of years ago. He got a job working at French Oil in Piqua, Ohio, for Dan French. He was a Solid Works designer or drafter. He’s now at the University of Dayton, studying mechanical engineering. I don’t know if he’s working right now. I’ve not spoken to him for about a year, but he’s doing a great job. 

We’ll try and stay on the subject. I’m very bad at getting off subjects. I know you’re a little different than I am. You’ll help keep us on, but what inspired you to start teaching after living the engineer life? What made you go back into teaching? 

Coaching football. It sounds corny, but our mutual friend Nick Black, who was a teacher at Springfield Clark or Springfield Shawnee at the time, asked me if I wanted to help him coach football, and I’m like, “There’s no way. I don’t have that time,” and he goes, “No, I need you on Thursdays and Fridays to talk to me.” I said, “Okay.” 

Once I got that bug being around kids and seeing how much different a world that actually is and how much joy I got out of that, I was young enough at the time. I didn’t have children, so I made the jump. Luckily, I was actually on my way to Pennsylvania to a paper mill. After Nick introduced me to a couple of people at Springfield CTC, I stopped and introduced myself, and then two weeks later, I had a job there. It was unreal how that happened. 

Is that when he was down and Springfield?

Yeah. He graduated from Wittenberg, got that first job as a history teacher at Johnny, and then he was coaching football, and that’s how the whole thing started. 

Nick is still coaching, and you are still coaching, correct? 

Yeah, Nick’s now the head coach at Beaver Creek. 

Career Tech School Versus Traditional High School

Nick and I have actually known each other since kindergarten. He was one of the very first friends I ever made, all the way back in kindergarten. It’s cool how 4 or 5 of us have still stayed in contact with each other. That’s cool. With what you’re teaching now, it’s a career tech school. For a career tech school versus a traditional high school, what skills are you seeing one versus the other? Obviously, traditional school prep kids to go to college, and tech school preps kids to go make money and not have college debt. 

The one thing that our kids get more than anything is those skills, and it’s cliche, but they become career-ready. Not necessarily college-ready. I’ll talk about college already here in a little while, but my kids are learning computer skills. You would be amazed at the number of students that come out of high school as juniors coming in to us who do not have standard computer skills. You hear people say they learn how to use a computer at a young age, but we’re talking about actually navigating through a computer, understanding how maybe a hard drive works a lot, but how network drives work? How to save stuff? Those basic computer skills. 

MFG Monkey | Career Tech
You would be amazed at the number of students who come out of high school as juniors who do not have standard computer skills.


A lot of kids lack those. They know how to type in words. They know how to type in Excel. They know how to search for stuff on Google, but there are so many kids who lack the skills that you need to be a successful person. The other thing is that my kids have a severe background in engineering. We’re talking gear cams and mechanical part linkages. Your basic everyday understanding of the principle mechanics of machines and how they operate. 3D printing has exploded in my world. 

I think these guys get 7 or 8 different certifications that are pretty high level, like AutoCAD certification and SolidWorks certification. We’re moving into some of the more Autodesk with the inventor and the 360 stuff. Math skills and electronics. We studied quite a bit of engineering basic principles. It’s good and bad because one of the things that I always try to tell people or tell parents when they first meet me and they first start to see what my program does is engineering isn’t for everybody. Everybody thinks they want to be an engineers, and all of a sudden, there’s a little thing called math gets in the way. 

It got my way. 

It’s rough. There are 1,000 different ways. One of my goals is I don’t know where these kids are going to end up. I don’t know what engineering they want to study or what they want to do, but there are ways around math. There are all kinds of other engineering degrees out there that these guys have access to that they don’t know about. Everybody wants to be a mechanical engineer or an architect. You’re sitting there looking at a sixteen-year-old kid going, “Can you do math? No, I can’t. Well, then we got to figure out another option.” We try to guide these kids. Once you get known for two years, guide them where they’re going to be more successful. I think some high schools don’t do a very good job. 

High School’s doing an awful job at that. In my opinion, they do. I’m thinking of personal experience, myself included, but my son is very academically focused. I’ll say he’s your traditional student-athlete. He has a 3A, does well in school, and doesn’t need anyone to hold his hand to get his things done. He’s a good student. If I had let my daughter drop out in elementary school, she would have. You tutored me with math through college, but without a ton of help and dedication from some teachers that I reached out to, I wouldn’t even have graduated high school. I think that tech schools are more important than anyone gives the tech school credit for. 

Hidden secret. 

It is a hidden secret, and I don’t know what the culture is now, but when we were in school, you were almost looked down upon for going to a tech school. You feel that way, right? 

That’s a big thing we’re trying to break. We’re trying to break that mold because back in the ‘70s and ‘80s and even in the early ‘90s, it was the place where all the kids who smoked went. They sat in their lab, bent metal and their machine parts, and smoked cigarettes. Now, the way education has changed so much, we cannot take students who are severely credit deficient anymore because, with my class, which takes three hours a day, there’s a very limited amount of window for those kids to actually get the coursework. They still need to actually complete high school. 

It’s rough, and then now, with college credit plus popping in there and then all these articulation agreements where I’m teaching stuff from Sinclair. “Sinclair, let’s meet and teach classes in my class, and these kids get credit for it.” There’s not a lot of time for that other stuff, but people don’t realize how beneficial technical school can be or how it can teach variable skills to kids that they can use the rest of their entire lives, which is amazing. 

People don't realize how beneficial technical school can be for teaching variable skills to kids that they can use the rest of their entire life. Share on X

With what’s going on in the engine or in the manufacturing world, with more and more jobs coming back to the US and more people reassuring, and now with this whole virus thing, there’s even more of a push to not do business with China, and my company does. We do business with China, Thailand, and Taiwan, but we’re very nimble, and that’s one of the reasons I started my company, which is that we can offer both solutions. The thing that has always frightened me for years was let’s think about this. If all the manufacturing comes back to the US, who’s going to run these places? Who’s going to be employed? 

Rich Brown is a guy that I talked to, and I have done a couple of episodes with our show. It was going to lead into what you and I are talking about, but that got shifted. Before this whole pandemic started, there were 500,000 unfilled manufacturing jobs out there, 500,000 and we haven’t even brought everything back to the US that can be brought back. A lot of our technology is outdated. Steel mills are outdated. Paper mills are outdated. They put the new one up in Lima. Do you have any students up there? 

I do not have any students at Pratt in Lima. We have a Pratt here in Springfield. It’s a different type of Pratt. They’re a manufacturing company that makes cardboard boxes for Home Depot and the stuff that you get in the mail, and they’re booming. 

Just to go back to your point, what is college-ready? I hope that what we’re doing is a small piece right to get kids reading this. I know your students will read it, but I want to encourage more students to seek out a career in machining, fabricating, welding, or even more technical aspects because the jobs are needed. Kids can come right out of your program, make a very good living, and get their higher education paid for. 

Ninety percent of the companies that hire my kids actually know what they’re getting before they get the kid. I’m honest with them. They don’t have all the skills that they need to be a basic designer. You wouldn’t want to take a high school kid out and say, “Okay, go design a bridge,” but you can take a high school kid out of there and say, “Here’s an engineer. Let’s save him some time. Let you do a lot of the design work on the computer while he does a lot of the other stuff.” 

It’s so true that that works and can help, and then these companies pay for these kids to continue their education. Companies are starting to actually hiring young people and training them the way they want to be trained. They bring them on at a good wage. They require a two-year contract at times. At least they know they get a good worker for two years. That’s huge. Our welding students, if they want to weld and they want to be successful at it, can make an extremely good living. I’ve got a kid right now who’s working in Fairborn. Starting off at like almost $20 something an hour and he’s 18 years old. 

This may be a struggle for you. I don’t know. I’m speaking off the cuff here, but trying to get a traditional teacher to say, “Why don’t you go check this course out?” Do you guys have a good enough relationship with “traditional high school” in your area that teachers are referring kids to your program?

I’ve got quite a few people who have gotten to know me over the years. We’re a district of rail around, I think, third, maybe 11 to 13 schools. I don’t remember exactly how many of them are. A big problem is that these schools are rated now. That’s one of the things that, as a teacher, you see in this interaction between how districts are graded on scoring and how monies are distributed. 

They don’t want to lose some of their top-notch students to go for technical school because they’re like, this is where I want to get into the topic of what I think about college ready, but you get some good kids. All my kids are great. They’re good kids. I’ve only had about 3 or 4 valedictorians in 18 years. Even in those, kids could be getting so much more ready for college by the time they leave me. My kids leave me with probably around 18 to 20 credit hours done already in engineering. When you hop into a Sinclair, you’ve got maybe a year to year and a half, and you’re done with the two-year degree based on the pathway you choose to take. 

How much money does that save them? Twenty credit hours. What’s a credit hour at Sinclair? $2,000, maybe a credit hour?

It’s more than $100 an hour. It’s fairly inexpensive to add up to your college anymore. If that kid decides to go to Kent State, what debt is that kid going to roll into? They may have some college credit plus classes that they are offering at a high school level, or the kid can get an English class, math class, civics class, or something out of the way. They got 2 or 3, maybe 4 classes through college already done. That’s a whole different world when you’re hoping into an engineering field. 

You’re sitting in a first-level drafting class, and you’re very good at doing English, and you’re very good at doing math in a classroom. Also, you got to apply hands-on and you’re like, “What do I do? What do I do?” Some of the hands-on skills that these kids get in the Career Technical program save them, and they’re thinking about changes. A tremendous amount, and your problem-solving skills are almost quadrupled. I think a lot of high school kids who don’t get that opportunity at a career school lack some of that stuff. 

What certificates can some of your students get out of your course? 

Everybody gets OSHA trained immediately. They’ll get an OSHA 10 certification right at the beginning of the senior year. They get a Solid Works CSWA certification. CSWA stands for Certified SolidWorks Associate. I’ve had 2 or 3 of them take the certified professional exam and do very fairly well on that. These certifications are offered by software companies like DSL Works. They basically give you a test. It’s a three-hour test, and it’s intense for associate one. It’s gotten harder in the last 5 or 6 years. 

It used to be when you took this test that a middle school kid could probably pass. Now, it’s the point where it’s getting intense. It’s a little harder. They got to create assemblies. They got to understand moments of inertia. They got to understand the mass properties of a part. How much is this aluminum bar going to weigh? Those all bring right into a skill they would probably have to use in the real world. If you’re shipping plates, for example, giant leaf springs that you make for a semi-trailer or tractor-trailer, you know how many you can fit on like a trailer to transport. 

You can get that weight and have that information, but fast and in a hurry, and then, in the business world, it is key. Time is money. Those software certifications are huge. You can say, “I’ve got certified this and this and this,” but I also make my kids keep a portfolio of everything that they’ve done for two years, and that thing is usually 2-inch, 3-inch or 4-inch-ring binders that are packed full of all the information they’ve done. Those usually do as good as the certifications when they walk into a door.

The College Myth

You had sent me some notes. I’m going through them here. I think it’s one of your notes on topic three. I’m not a fan of college for mentality, which is exactly what we grew up in. If we’re going to go to college, and I’ve said this multiple times, I was told this. I’m sure you were told this. If you don’t get a college, you’re not going to be anybody. 

You’re going to be a loser. You’re going to be a guy working with your name on your shirt. My name’s Randy, I’m a trash man. That’s absolutely in high schools, and being a teacher myself, I don’t want to bash other high schools, but when you have the college mentality for all, you’re doing a huge disservice for 90% of your kids in a high school setting.

When you have the college mentality for all, you're doing a huge disservice to 90% of your kids. Share on X

Their stats out there and you can look them up, but 90% of those kids in high school are not ready to go to college. Telling these people that they’re ready to go to college and have to go there, and then they go out and waste this money or take out loans, is doing two things. It’s hurting the economy and that kid. I wish high schools would change a lot of what they do. What does that mean when they say college-ready? Do they understand what college-ready means? 

None of these kids do. They sit in classes and sometimes don’t want to be in, but when you go to college, you have to have about 4 or 5 good things. You got to have those things ready to rock for you. You’ve got to have study skills beyond skills you’ve ever had before in high school. I know you personally, and you know me personally. We weren’t the two kids that took the math book home every night and sat down and reviewed everything we did for the last two weeks and prepared for the test.

My math test probably never made it home. 

It was probably still covered in that grocery bag and book cover you used to put on tacos.

Look amazing. It wasn’t even worn. 

Yeah, you spend more time drawing in front of that, and you pay attention in class, but these kids don’t have those study skills yet. Even though most of my kids have pretty good ones, 90% of the kids I see don’t have the skills they need yet. They’re not ready for the information that they’re going to get. When you go to college, people throw stuff at you bang, bang, bang, and you got to be able to take what they’re giving you, put it over here, process that, know how to do this, know how to do that, know how to sign up for a class. 

Financially, there’s so much information out there for college kids that you’re not ready for it. Then financial literacy. These kids don’t know how financing works, and that’s one thing I think they should bring back to school, which is some financial class. You should be able to do that stuff. Do you understand the difference between the two types of college loans that you can get? Do you know how a credit card works? Do you understand percentages and how much you’re getting charged? 

Do you understand the credit period? What does credit do to you personally? Good, bad, ugly?

We talked about computer literacy. I don’t say 90%, but at least half of these kids are ready to handle computers. I remember when I was at Wright State studying for my education stuff, you had to have three different backgrounds in three different types of software. I needed to do Mac. I needed to know Windows. I’m learning other software that I haven’t done for educational purposes. 

There’s so much of that computer literacy out there that they’re not ready for. There are four things right there that have nothing to do with learning. You’re going to say I want to become a doctor or a radiologist, or something. You’re so worried about learning the field. Those things get pushed to the side, and that’s where you see a lot of kids go. You follow that little curve, and they peek right down. 

I agree, and even people that go to a traditional college, Aaron Saltzman, I’m sure you listen to his podcast. He is a good buddy of mine and an amazing mechanical engineer. He worked at Merck Marine and at Caterpillar, all these things and years ago. We were talking, and he said, “You go to school to be an engineer. You’re taught how to be an engineer. We didn’t get any teaching on how to run a business.” I’m like, “That’s what your MBA is for, or you need to go study business, and the engineering schools are not interested in teaching you how to run the business or teaching you how to work in the business.” 

Design stuff that doesn’t kill people. 

With Aaron, he wanted his own company. He’s getting his MBA the old-fashioned way by failing, learning, succeeding, and all those things. 

That brings me up to the next thing we want to talk about, and I call it new college versus old college. Even though you’re still talking about this college mentality for all types of stuff, but colleges have adapted tremendously in the last five years. No more is an Associate’s degree looked at as, “You have an Associate’s degree and this.” It’s actually like, “You got an associate’s degree now. We’re definitely looking for these types of people.” A lot of businesses that I’ve dealt with and experienced in trying to place kids into the real world. 

They want to know that you can complete something. It’s not necessarily the fact that you’re good at doing something. They want to know that you can actually see something through. There are a lot of businesses, and Motoman is one of them. They hire a ton of people with associate degrees, but the other thing that’s changed tremendously in the last few years is now a lot of these universities, not necessarily like the big universities, are offering certificates in different areas. 

You can go to Clark State, Wright State, Edison State, Columbus State, or Cincinnati State. Study something requiring you to take about six classes, and you can walk away with their certificate, like running a CNC mill. You can take six classes and get a certification in running that, and then you can go back and get a certificate in welding. You can go get back and get the certificate and robotics. That’s where I see manufacturing starting to move when they start hiring these people. Why do I need to sit in a class about civics or a class about the humanities and learn that stuff when I’m trying to be an engineer? A university statement made me take a religion class. 

That didn’t help me. I’m sitting there trying to figure out if this is going to kill somebody or not. This religion class brought me back to reality here and helped me solve that problem. No. These certificates eliminate a lot of that stuff that you don’t need to take as true. If you want a Bachelor’s degree, yes, you need that stuff. If I want to learn how to do something, a certificate is great, and then you can build your repertoire or toolbox, which is what we call knowledge, and take that into multiple different companies. If you have 5 or 6 different certificates all over the manufacturing world, you’re more employable than the guy who has maybe a Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering that’s never held a job. 

MFG Monkey | Career Tech
The certificates eliminate a lot of the stuff that you don’t need to take. If you want a bachelor’s degree, you need that kind of stuff. But if you want to just learn how to do something, a certificate is great.


I have a buddy, Jason Armold, who works at Night Source. He and I were having dinner one night. We were talking about that. He has this MBA. These guys are very educated, and he’s like, “Dustin, I think my most valuable education comes from certificates Lean Six Sigma, being a black belt at Lean Six Sigma.” If your students go to any manufacturing company, I don’t care who it is, and they say yeah, I’ve started my Lean Six Sigma. I’ve done this course in this course. I have this certificate through them. I also studied 5s. 

I would have to guess that that kid is going to have a better chance of being hired than the kid coming out of school with a four-year degree and industrial manufacturing or mechanical engineering because, depending on what the position is, obviously, those certificates to your point are unbelievably valuable. 

You don’t have to go into $70,000 worth of debt to get your industrial engineering degree. I can spend $10,000, have seven certificates, and be way more employable. 

You don't have to go into $70,000 dollars’ worth of debt to get your industrial engineering degree. You can spend $10,000, have seven certificates, and be way more employable. Share on X

Obviously, there’s financial help for colleges. Most people get financial grants or help. Do you know if they’re are ways for students to get help getting certificates?

That’s a good question. 

I thought about that. If a student says, “No, I don’t want to go to traditional college, but I want to go and I want to study Lean Six Sigma. I don’t have a job yet, but instead of going to Wright State or UD or Ohio State, can I go and study Lean Six Sigma or 5S and that’s going to be my education and get certificates in machining or welding and things like that?”

I’m not sure every software or every program of study does stuff like that. I know in my world, if you want to be AutoCAD certified, you can find places out there if you do enough searching on the internet. For example, if you’re a kid from Springfield High School here in Springfield, Ohio, and you want to take a certification test, you got to find a place that actually can certify, like an actual site you can go to and sit down and take the test. There are those options out there. You have to pay for those. My certification, I went through all this trouble making sure that we could do that. My kids take all that stuff for free. 

If you go to a career school, you’re going to get all that stuff for free. Even some colleges offer some of that stuff. I think Clark State is now starting to jump in on offering some of that certification stuff for free, or they build it into the actual cost of the course. We were talking about scholarship money. If you started a career technical school, any two-year college is going to offer these kids, as long as you can keep the GPA. 

We’re talking about your GPA for your junior and senior years. If you can keep that thing above 2.5, which means you’re an average kid, they’re going to offer you $3,000 right out the door. They’re going to say, “Come to Sinclair. We’re going to give you $3,000. Come to Clark State, we’re going to give you a George Mueller $3,000 scholarship.” These two-year schools want kids to come. They’re doing everything in their power to offer free money. I have one girl in my senior class who has gotten three scholarships from Sinclair that will cover her entire two-year degree. 

She doesn’t have to worry about money because she takes the time to fill out the scholarship stuff. That’s the other thing that I think high school lacks on is the ability to have a class. I think you should have a class called scholarships when you’re a senior in high school. All you do all day long is fill out scholarships. There is so much money that goes unfilled, and you know that goes unfilled every year because people don’t want to do the work.

My son’s going through it right now. He got accepted to the UK, and now it’s all about scholarship money. Thankfully, he is a good writer, but he’s going to have to write tons of letters for scholarship money or grant money, and things like that. I totally agree that there should be a class to help navigate those waters, even for a parent. 

Even the FAFSA form. A lot of these parents don’t have the time, and I’m a different instructor because I want to see these kids go, but I’m not everybody. Not everybody’s me, but I take the time to sit down with every one of my seniors and help them fill out the FAFSA form for their parents because I do it all the time. It’s time-consuming. 

A lot of these kids come from a broken homes; I’m sure or don’t have the best life at home, and their parents could give two shits about a FAFSA form. 

I’ve had parents who don’t even want to give out kids’ social security numbers. It’s a challenge in high school to get these kids to get the money they need sometimes to allow them to continue that education so that they don’t go into debt until they’re 55 years old. I was reading a statistic the other day about college loan debt, and 20% of our college loan debt, it was like $70 billion to $80 billion, is still owed by people over the age of 60. If you think about that value $80 billion in college loans is still owed by people over the age of 60. I’m sorry. I never wanted college loan debt. 

I wanted to actually go to school, as I could afford it. I don’t like debt. Kids see that, “University of Dayton. Great school. There’s a lot of fun stuff to do with that school.” They don’t realize that these private schools, and I’m a dating kid, they’re expensive, and you’re looking at 30 plus thousand dollars a year. They don’t register what that value is when they’re done, 30,000 times 4, $120,000. That’s a house. 

The Power Of Networking

Yeah, and Shelby went through that. I was so proud of them because I didn’t want to make the decision for him. At eighteen, He’s going to start making decisions on his own and he had a school come to him to play lacrosse and an amazing liberal arts school in Kentucky called Center, 1,500 students. The culture and atmosphere of this college were incredible. You have to live on campus all four years. The classroom size is 15 to 20 students. You don’t get anything like that at a high of state or a University of Kentucky, or Kent State, or anything like that. It was $52,000 a year. 

You come out of school with over $200,000 in debt. Shelby’s going through everything. He got accepted to multiple schools. His main pick was the UK, which, after going through that exercise, it makes the tuition in the UK not look so bad for out of state. That’s the incredible part about college, and he’ll come out of school. Hopefully, he networked well enough that it helped him be recruited and helped some get a job. One of the topics on your list to talk about is word of mouth and recruiting, and hopefully, what we’re doing today helps your students because of how many manufacturers listen to our show, and it’s growing. 

It’s almost doubling every time we launch a show. My hope is that I get an email at and they say, “We want to get a hold of Eric because we want to look at his program to place one of his students in our shop here in Columbus.” We have listeners from California to Maine and Canada. It would be very rewarding for both of us. This is my goal is that we place one of your students from us, talking as friends. We do this on the phone anyway, and for us to sit down and record it.

Word of mouth, and you are trying to get that through a lot of the younger generations’ thought processes. That’s not your social media stuff. It’s not your Facebook. It’s not your Snapchat your Instagram stuff. You and I both have been in the business long enough of manufacturing that I can move to a different state and have a job in 10 minutes. The same thing with you. I’m never worried about me. Okay, this educational stuff is awesome, and I love it. 

Someday I go, “I’m done. I’m moving to Arizona. I’m going out there.” I’ve met so many people on my travels that networking that word of mouth saying, “I’m coming out there,” and people realize who you are or what you’re what you can offer to people is a huge thing. It’s becoming bigger with, especially with career technical schools.

I don’t know about you, Eric, but up until I took the leap and went out on my own, I never filled out an application. 

I think I filled out one, and that was the job that I had when I was running out of Career Technical School. I got that job. 

That was a referral. 


You got referred to that job like I did, and you have to fill out an application as part of the standard paper. 

I don’t think I ever got online and applied for a visit. It was basically here’s this guy, got a good brain, good dude, check him out. That’s how I landed both my engineering job and my education job.

Business is like that, too. We’re a marketing firm. That’s what we do. We market, we’re in it. We’re in manufacturing, but our largest contracts, our best customers, and our best manufacturers that we represent are word of mouth. We have owners of companies that are playing bridge or at the bar talking or having a cookout, and they say, “I have this need. Do you know anyone?” Do people do that all the time? 

I’ve actually been doing the same. I’ve been in a bar before and ran into somebody that somebody else knew and got to stock into him, next thing I knew, I had a kid and a job. 

That’s the power of word of mouth and recruiting versus job seeking. Get on Indeed or LinkedIn, or whatever, and start applying for jobs. We have a job opening for an ops manager and had 30-plus applications come in 2 or 3 days. I would have much rather have somebody refer somebody to have that job. It makes it a much harder decision to interview somebody, and you don’t know who they are. I’ve known people I’ve hired for ten-plus years, and I thought I knew who they were. Once they come, it’s a whole different story. Your chances of success with the referral are much higher than hiring somebody or hiring a business. 

MFG Monkey | Career Tech
Your chances of being successful with the referral is much higher than hiring somebody or hiring a business.


The world tells us that you should be able to get a job based off of your experience and your knowledge, and how good of a worker you are, but 90% of the stuff that I see out there is basically me saying something to somebody else. It’s about who you know, and it’s a big aspect of.

You sent me a list of, I’m guessing these are your students.

These are probably the newest 2 years to 3 years of kids. I could go on for days. 

It’s impressive. Laser Link, SolidWorks, Dexter, Central fire protection. What is Central Fire Protection do? Where are they? 

Jay Jason is actually a senior right now. Thank God, he’s eighteen, so we can mention his name. I’ll hold the FERPA thing. Great, outstanding young man. When I first met him, he was really shy, a quiet kid, and he had a brain. A gentleman out of Springfield. I can’t remember his name. I think his name is Dave, he called me one day. They are a sprinkler system company. They install in like Walmart and a lot of your commercial facilities, not necessarily industrial, but a lot of commercial facilities. They have to require a fire suppression system inside of them. 

Are they manufacturing the heads and all that? 

Yeah. I don’t know if they manufactured the heads. I know they’re an installer. I don’t know if they actually make the sprinkler piece that actually gets installed. Dex actually designs and works with the company. He’s teaching me stuff that I didn’t know, codes and stuff for those fire things, and then the levels that you can get. I didn’t realize how big of an area that actually was in the world for sprinkler systems. Again, you learn as you go, and that’s what this whole thing’s about is learning as you go. 

There’s a show in Vegas that is all about fire suppression. 

It’s amazing, and he hopped in there on day one. This company in Springfield has been around for a long time. This guy was there for a while, left, and came back, and they hired a kid from the JVS back in the day. That kid still works there. They needed somebody else to come in and could do some of the stuff, so he called out of the blue, and I never met the man. Awesome guy. I gave him Jason, and he went in there, and he’s knocking it out of the park until this whole thing happens. 

Most of them are laid off right now. Laser Link. He’s doing solid work. He’s probably the highest-paid kid I’ve ever got a job for. They make him work at home now. He’s eighteen years old, working from his couch, designing laser systems for piping and measuring laser tools that run high speed through the thing. I’ve got a couple of kids from last year. One’s working at WNA Stevens and Associates. He’s a concrete company. I think he used to work for a concrete company. 

Lady Concrete.

He does all the CAD work for everything they’re pouring. He is the only person in that building at 18 or 19 years old who does all their designs. He does everything. I have a couple of kids who work up in Piqua. You and I have a mutual friend there, Trenton Karn. They called out of the blue one day. Logan Frost was the guy’s name, but he doesn’t work there. I think he moved on somewhere else, but they hired two kids in the same program the same year. They were in desperate need of CAD people. I’ve got a kid a Fuyao Glass NOV, which used to be a Moyno pump. They make giant pumping pumps for Cargill and all kinds of stuff. At one point, I had six kids from that program working at that same company. 

The guy that hired him used to be somebody that I knew when I came to Springfield and we were doing gasket stuff. It was weird, again back to who you know, I’ve got 4 or 5 kids that still work there now, and they’re all still employed. They’re working from home. I have one girl right now who got interviewed over the quarantine. She got it from a place out of Dublin. I think it was Soil and Testing Engineering Limited. She wants to get into more of the civil stuff. I’ve got kids and architectural firms. I’ve got kids in major manufacturing places. I got kids doing AutoCAD stuff for concrete. It’s amazing where they end up, but it’s pretty cool. 

Do you have those kids come back and talk to your current students? 

A lot of them don’t have the time because a lot of these guys, especially now, are working eight-hour days and going to school at night. A familiar sound to both of us. Most of these kids do, though come back. As a career technical school, we have to have an advisory committee or people in the real world to give us input or give us stuff, or this is where this is going. The vast majority of my advisory committee is former students, because I like the fact that they don’t hold back. They’ll say, “You’ve got to change this. 

This is what we’re doing now. We need to move on to that.” I think that helps me become a better instructor. I can take as much criticism as I want from these guys because I know them, and they’re not going to come in with their own agenda and say, “This is how you’re supposed to do. This is the way X, Y, and Z companies have done it for years. I don’t know why you’re teaching it this way.” These kids are pretty straightforward and honest. They give me a lot of good input. 

I’m hopeful that this gets out to a lot of students and is shared through. 

Making Kids Job-Ready

I hope a lot of businesses hear that because there are a lot of career technical schools out there or teachers like me who take the time to make sure these kids are ready to work for them. I know there’s a great place over by you called Tools. They do an amazing job, and Miami Valley Career Center does a good job. I’ve met tons and tons of people throughout the year. Polaris is up there in Northern Columbus. There’s a gentleman I use, a teacher named Steve Chrisman. Awesome man. We do an amazing service that a lot of people don’t realize what they can get for the price that they can get for some of these kids. 

Yeah, and groom them. That’s what Matt talked about. He started recruiting in elementary school. He came up with a collaring book to get kids interested in manufacturing at such a young age, and he loves grooming those kids and having them learn from the other students that he’s hired. There are so many companies out there. I worked at a company where our average workforce age was 55 and 60 years old. They couldn’t find a machinist or a tool and dye person. 

They were going about recruiting, and I’m sure they still are to this day in the completely opposite way, but their culture was something to be desired. I think that all the manufacturing, especially how much is coming back to Ohio in the Midwest,. The midwestern people have a stigma for hard workers. Nobody says that people in the Midwest don’t work hard. If any student ever goes to the West Coast, they’re going to get hired because they’re from the Midwest over somebody who grew up in California? 

I’m sorry, California people, but when I got to California, everyone joked around about our work mentality versus California’s work mentality, and I get it. I know why our weather sucks, California’s weather doesn’t. If I lived or grew up in California, I’d probably be at the beach too, working on my tan and my surf stroke, but these kids do. They have the upper hand on most of our nation. Columbus and Dayton are not too far. We’re within six hours of, I think, 80% of the US population. We’re in a manufacturing hub. A Dayton is a manufacturing hub. There are so many places around Dayton where you can work. 

You’re exactly right about the point you made there. I would much rather hire a farm kid from Ohio, Wisconsin, or Iowa to come in and work for me than I would probably somebody from the West Coast who doesn’t understand what it’s like to work on a farm when it’s negative 30 degrees outside. You still have to feed animals. That’s a hard-working person. 

Even at that, some of these kids who grew up on farms that are going into this thing, you learn how to fix stuff on the fly. It’s that problem-solving thing. That problem-solving is manufacturing. I don’t care what you say or who will tell me different and then the other stigma that I do not like I hear a lot of, especially from kids or even sometimes from parents, is the manufacturing is a dirty process and it’s a boring place.

It can depend on who the company is, but I’ve been in some manufacturing facilities where you can eat off the floor. Ninety percent of what they’re doing is robotics or some automation. You’re not seeing a lot of people touch a lot of machinery.

Even the dirty shops are becoming cleaner because they want to recruit the good people. 

You’re not going to get good people to work for you.

You can take a dirty process and make it clean. The days of there being oil all over the floor is unacceptable now. I’ve worked in those shops where it’s dark and dingy and there’s oil over the floor, and ownership doesn’t want to put in the budget to clean the floors, and there’s 50 years like Grime. Guess what? It’s freaking hard to recruit. 

I’m not going to go work there. I’m going to go work somewhere that’s clean and safe.

Yeah, you get a good person in, and they get burned out, walking into a dark, dingy place, and they could work at some place across the street with some pride in their facility. Go do that. My aunt’s daughter, Lauren, I talk about her all the time. I’m so proud of her, but she did the same thing. She knew that college wasn’t for her. I think she spent a year at BG mucking through it, realizing that it wasn’t for her. She had a summer job that she landed at Honda, and she’s been there for 4 years or 5 years. I don’t know because she keeps getting promoted. She’s 22 years old or 21 years old. Bought a house. There are no 21-year-old or 22-year-old college-ready kids buying a house. 

They’re still living on campus, eating waffles and three-day-old pizza, which I love. Before we completely get wrapped up here. You were showing me a project that you guys were working on. We’re recording this us sitting here talking, but show us, if you can, are you allowed to show the the hand that you 3D print it?

This has come a long way. Years ago, I was sitting in a dentist’s office. I think it was a dentist’s office or maybe it was a doctor’s office. I was reading an article in one of those little kids’ magazines as Junior magazines and whatever, and I happened to glance down at it and I’m like, “I’m not picking that up,” and I looked at it again, and it was a kid on the front of the magazine that looked like a prosthetic arm on and it was all colorful and was neat. I’m like, “I’m going to check that out.” I opened it up, and it was all 3D printed. I’m like, “That’s pretty cool.” 

You talk about being in the right place at the right time. At that time, I had a student named Don Cordle, a great young man. He was born with a hand disorder. I can’t remember what it’s called, but you’re basically born with no fingers on your palm of your hand. You have the palm of your hand. It looks like a numb. This kid in that magazine had primarily the same disability that he was born with as well, and I’m like, “Man, I’m going to look into this.” 

Over the summer, in between doing football and stuff,. I was doing a lot of research on this, and I found a couple of companies and non-profit organizations that actually produce stuff for kids. There’s a great guy up in the Columbus area, and I wish I remembered his name. He’s doing some great stuff right now for PPE and some other stuff. I got involved with a company called Enable, and they make prosthetic hands-on 3D printers, and it’s basically, here’s one of the prototypes we built a couple of years ago. 

You made it all in your classroom. 

My students made it in the classroom, correct? We spent probably almost an entire year making these. It was funny. Somebody caught wind of it. At the time, I’m still not a big social media guy. I don’t post stuff. 

You got on Facebook, Eric. 

Yeah, welcome to the new world, but somebody posted a picture of us doing this. I think one of my English teachers, Dina Harris, posted a picture, and then we got some serious press from Channel 7 out of Dayton. That project led to somebody else making a phone call. That year, we made 7 or 8 of those prosthetic arms for people in Clark County. One little kid out of Northwestern School District, but I think it was about a week before we were getting quarantined here. I got a phone call from a lady out of Urbana, and her son has the same deformity. 

In what I refer to as my Nerdery here, I brought home a 3D printer, and the beautiful part about doing what I do is I can still communicate with my kids, and I have a few kids that they have their own 3D printers at home. We’re going back and forth printing parts for this little guy right now, and then hopefully, by the end of the week, we’ll have yet another kid and a bit of prosthetic arm, which costs us probably about a hundred bucks to make. 

That’s incredible. Is the school allowing you to use school funds for that? Who’s financing that? 

The 3D printer I have right now at home is our low-end model. I can fit the other ones, and they would be more than willing to let me in. Some of those 3D printers I have in my lab weigh about 500 pounds. I think one weighs close to 1,000 pounds. 

How many 3D printers do you have in your classroom? 

Four and we have four different styles. We can do PLA material. I cannot remember everything I got; I even wrote it down so that I didn’t forget to tell you that. We can do SLA and PLA. We do polyjet, and we have an FDM printer. Most of the big end stuff is Stratasys machines, which I would highly recommend if you’re looking into the 3D printing world. Stratasys, in my world, is the number one when you’re talking FDM or polyjet. We have a low-end PLA machine, which I brought home. Low end gives you different qualities.

I have some problems with this piece, but this is for test-fitting purposes for this week. Our SLA material is a form labs thing if you’ve ever seen it on Netflix. I would highly suggest if you’re a 3D printing guy or you’re getting into that stuff, there’s a documentary called Print The Legend. You actually meet the guys from MakerBot. I’ve got up here, and then you meet the guys from Form Labs. I try to teach 3D printing as much as I can because it’s growing. 

If you were watching anything to do with the news, Ford is actually 3D printing. Everything that you see these people are 3D printing for face masks and face shields. They’re everywhere. It’s funny that I’m watching that because I’m watching Ford’s facilities, and they’ve got the same printers I’ve seen in every two-year college or even in my classroom. These kids to get that knowledge, and that’s even more. 

Additive manufacturing is blowing up right now, and I’m glad that you’re bringing that up because I know somebody out there is listening to this who has high-end additive manufacturing and their facility, and we work with a couple of companies that they basically 3D print shoulder and knee replacements out of titanium and other other razzoo materials. I didn’t even know it was possible until I went to this place, where each lab had its own material. 

This lab is only for titanium, and it’s at Time Manufacturing. If you have a hip that needs to be replaced or a shoulder that needs to be replaced, this company gets the order for that. They custom fit the replacement part to the person, and they 3D print it, and it’s a near net shape. Then they machine it down to what it needs to be, and they deliver it the next day. It’s incredible. 

What a lot, and I try to get this with my kids on 3D scanning is huge right now. You look at some of these companies, like WeatherTech, that scan the car, and you have a perfectly fitting format and all that other good stuff. We worked with a company out of date and called Skyward. They do destruct the testing for military aircraft. You’re flying an 810 Warthog or whatever over Afghanistan, and somebody is shooting at you with the 50 caliber machine gun.

They’re doing a sustainability test or survivability test. I got linked up with them, and we went to their facility, and they 3D scanned my student, who had this deformity. They 3D scanned his hand. Send us those files back, and we were able to create our 3D designs of that prosthetic hand around that stuff. What you’re saying right now is happening every day, and you’re trying to show kids that are getting into this field how cool that stuff can actually get into. It’s amazing. 

Yeah. It is amazing. I know that you and I could probably sit here and talk about this all day. I encourage people that are reading to reach out to us. You can email me at Eric has Facebook. He’s a little behind the time. We have every social media out there. Get on, listen to us, share us, like us, and email us questions that you have. We’ll have Eric’s contact info and so forth upon the description. If you want to reach out to Eric directly, do that. 

If you’re a manufacturer and planning, I think there’s so much pent-up demand right now with what’s going on. Once the stay-at-home order is released, I think that the floodgates are going to open. At least, that’s my positive affirmation for the first time. We’re all quarantined, but if you’re a manufacturer and you’re looking for a good student, somebody that you can groom, intern, pay internship, probably unpaid internship, or anything else, reach out to us. We’ll get you hooked up with Eric, and he can suggest somebody for you. 

I think it’d be rewarding for you and I as friends to be able to help kids get into your program. If they’re interested in it or a like program or help with a manufacturer. Between the two of us, we have contacts at a lot of manufacturing companies. This shows we have over 10,000 people in our database all over the world, and we’ll get the South to all of them. I appreciate you coming on, Eric. 

Thank you for having me. I appreciate you inviting me in. 

No, thank you. I think that we talked about a lot of valuable information. Let’s do it again. Let’s get together and have some fun as soon as we’re able to. 

I agree. 

We’ll talk soon. 

All right, buddy. Thanks again. 

See you. 


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