3 Ways to Help Solve the Machinist Shortage

The manufacturing industry is on the rise, but there is a shortage in the workforce that is limiting the abilities of machine shops to find great talent and fulfill their needs. As manufacturing continues to move back to the US, the shortage will only grow larger. With nearly 70% of the machinist workforce over the age of 45, there has to be an injection of youth in the industry over the next 20 years to keep American manufacturing alive and well. Currently employed machinists are the best source to encourage today’s youth to join the profession, so the community will be an integral part of solving this machinist shortage.

Reach Out and Get Involved

The best thing machinists can do to make an immediate impact is to begin reaching out to their local communities, sharing their craft with families and students in the area. If we want to solve the machinist shortage, we have to get students excited about the industry. One great way to get students interested is to hold an open house at your machine shop and open your doors to local schools for visits. Since machining is a very visual craft, students will appreciate seeing finished projects in-person and watching the machines at work. Shops could also open their doors to vocational schools and have a “Career Night,” where students who are interested in the trades can come with their families and learn more about what it is like to be a machinist. It is important to get the families of interested youth involved, as colleges will do the same at their open houses, and it gives the family a better sense of where they may be sending their son or daughter after graduation.

machinists discussing at a cnc machine

As great as it is to get students and families inside the machine shop, it is equally important for machinists to branch out and attend career days at local schools, as the trades are often underrepresented at these events. Bringing in a few recent projects and videos or photos of more advanced machining processes will be sure to open a few eyes, and might inspire a student who had never considered machining to do some research on the profession.

Join Communities on Social Media

According to a report from the Pew Internet Research Center, 92% of high school students use social media daily – a staggering number that must be taken into consideration when it comes to inspiring the younger generations. One easy way machinists can share their work is by using social media apps like Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. Instagram in particular has a great community of machinists, who are constantly sharing videos, tips and tricks, photos of their finished work, and talking to each other about best practices. Many machinist-related Instagram accounts have thousands of followers, and every machine shop should be jumping on this trend not only for their own marketing efforts, but also to get in front of the younger audience present in that space.

helical solutions end mill in tool holder with completed parts

Machinists love sharing their work with the community on social media, like this example from Reboot Engineering (@rebooteng) on Instagram.

If Instagram is not an option, there are several Facebook groups with tens of thousands of machinists talking about the trade, and quite a few influential machinists on YouTube who have substantial followings and are working to raise awareness about their trade. The machinist community on Twitter is smaller than the others, but it is growing and could be a valuable resource going forward.

Share Your Knowledge

New machinists will be more likely to embrace the profession and stick around if they are welcomed with open arms and in-depth, hands-on training from the senior machinists in a shop. This will decrease turnover, and keep younger machinists connected to the trade from the start. A machine shop full of veteran machinists can be an intimidating environment for a new hire, so this is a vital step in solving the machinist shortage.

It is also a great idea to share knowledge and stories with younger relatives. Nieces and nephews, younger cousins, grandchildren, and sons and daughters may find inspiration to follow in the footsteps of someone they look up to, but they’ll never know unless those experiences are shared with them.

If you already know someone who is considering a career as a machinist, share our “How to Become a Machinist” blog post with them, which is a great resource for all machine shops looking to hire young talent. This article could be handed out at open houses, career days, or school visits, and is part of Harvey Performance Company’s ongoing effort to improve the manufacturing industry and help solve the machinist shortage.

You can also share our new infographic, which outlines the current state of the industry, and provides a visual representation of how you can help solve this shortage as a current machinist. Use the hashtag #PlungeIntoMachining and share to your Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn pages to help us start a movement!

infographic of tips for Solving the Machinist Shortage


10 replies
  1. Roger Thomas
    Roger Thomas says:

    I have owned T&S Tool & Supply Company for over 39 years. I grew in the machine industry but wanted to be a teacher, went to college and was student teaching and was apply for a job as a teacher, but found out they did not make any money! So I stayed in the machining business and started my own company in 1978. But loved teaching and kids! So I have been teaching classes, doing one day lecturing and am on advisory committee’s on most high school & most colleges in the N.W. Ohio for over 40 years! And it is a struggle to get kids to enter the industry. And the major problem is the parents. Every parent wants their kids to go to college, but most kids do not belong in college! Statistic’s have changed, but 50% of freshmen drop out, then an additional 50% drop out after the 2nd years. Now these kids are looking for employment with no training. Truth is that most kids belong in a vocational school. I teach in a freshmen class at a local 4-year college in the engineering department and the average freshman is 19 years old. I teach in a local 2-year community college in a CNC machine lab and the average age is 25? Several of the people have degree’s in other fields, got a simple job in a job shop, learned how to run a manual mill and lathe and now are being taught to run a CNC machine. We have guys working in machine shop’s making over $100,000 a year! So why not be a machinist? Again, back to the parents. Thanks for starting the conversation across the country!

    • thomas
      thomas says:

      To roger am Thomas and I am looking into getting into machining and was wondering where I could do an aprentiship based work in machining and would love to learn how it all works as I’m in grade 10 so and soon I’m going to apply for my drivers license but I was mostly hoping you cold give me a few examples of places to start and I am hoping to complete 12th grade to get a high school diploma, so if it’s not to much please reply soon thank you.

  2. Jim Wier
    Jim Wier says:

    Since the 90s many manufacturing jobs have moved off shore. The recession, and the layoffs that followed, also had a major negative affect on looking at machining as a carreer. High schools began to shut down their “shop class” and High School counselors rarely thought about recommending a “Technical School” as a alternative to college.

    We find ourselves trying to make machinists out of warm bodies that have never been given the skills or knowledge required to be successful. Technical Schools are having to turn away applicants who cannot do 5th grade math. No employer is going to trust a $100,000 lathe or machining center to someone who cannot do simple math.

    I have begun to see a revitalization of training at some High Schools, but a impactful change must come from several sources.

    1. Educators must do a better job of holding back students who cannot complete required math skills for their grade. To pass them off to a higher grade without the foundation to be successful is setting them up for failure.

    2. More High Schools need to either develop a “Shop Class or partner with a school nearby that offers one. Manufacturers must make their facilities available for school visits. A student cannot choose a career he doesn’t know exists. Local machine shops should partner with their schools to ease the financial burden of getting started. Those who do will reap the reward of better trained entry level employees.

    3. High School counselors need to do a better job of offering Technical Training as an option to college. Not every needs to go to college. Some very worthwhile careers can be started right out of High School without the burden of college debt.

    4. The government needs to create financial incentives to companies that donate, time, money and equipment to qualified school programs…both at the H.S. and Technical College level. If the government wants manufacturing jobs back it has to show we are willing to create a culture that satisfies need those jobs create.

    5. Some responsibility lies with the student to be willing to accept responsibility for their success or failure. This goes beyond being willing to be trained. It addresses recognising this is a career not just a paycheck. Too many applicants today cannot pass a drug test, do not consider showing up on time as important and do only the minimal amount of effort required to get by. If you want to succeed they need to think of this as a career where performance and accepting responsibility is rewarded.

  3. Richard Barnes
    Richard Barnes says:

    From 1975 to 1990 I developed and taught a three academic year high school technical-vocational program in Plastics Technology. The program covered all plastics processes and materials and had the equipment to support the training. Industry loved it, including Boeing of Canada. Then politics raised it ugly head and high school vocational programs were shut down. The one thing it proved was it is possible to train 15 to 17 or 18 year old students to be outstanding technicians in any technical area.

  4. Ross
    Ross says:

    The three things I have learned in my time in industry.
    1. Pay. While there are jobs that pay very well & have good benefits most only pay 14-16.00 an hour, that is not worth the education & is not a family wage even with both working & receiving help from the govt.That is the reason 25 is the average age in a machinist job (same applies to all mfg jobs, welding etc.)
    Add on the cost of tool’s etc & it doesn’t pencil.
    2. Too many certs & hoops to jump thru just to obtain/keep a job. Symptoms of a top heavy business structure.
    3. No room for advancement, no long term future. There is a glass ceiling that applies to all blue collar workers in industry that exists in American business. I have seen too many companies that limit promotion from the floor & hire supervisors/managers off the street with no experience what so ever and hand them a package with 2x average pay & 6 weeks PTO & wonder why there is conflict & lack of production. There are good leaders that know the business & industry that need to be promoted in most shops so throw out the tired model, promote from within & foster an understanding & pay scale that ALL jobs are important, have a purpose. Pay for knowledge, dedication initiative & industry will thrive.

  5. Joe M
    Joe M says:

    IMHO. It is a simple supply and demand problem. I have met people that have left the industry because they discovered that driving a truck or driving a taxi makes more money then a tool and die maker. The current state of affairs is that companies want people smart enough to know the difference between .001″ and .0001″, but too stupid to know the grocery store stocker makes more then them. There would be an increase in supply when demand caused wages to exceed competing indistries. As long as there is just “I want” and not “at whatever it costs” there will be a decline in supply. I have 30 years of experience and am considering driving a school bus, because it is only a slight decrease in pay, but a great decrease in stress. Think about it. Why is an experienced machinist making 1 1/2 of what a starting bus driver makes. And could that be the root cause of the problem.

  6. Jerry
    Jerry says:

    Hummm. With 70% over 45, that means they are at the age and stage of having children ready to graduate high school. If they were smart, they bought their first house just before their first child was born. Then, a 20 year mortgage was the norm. So, today, they burned their mortgage and celebrated their first child’s HS graduation. If they could not, did not, could not afford this a a machinist, then don’t mislead the next generation and steer them into a career where they can achieve what my model machinist did. Just being realistic here. (Today, they need a down payment of 20% on a $250,000 house, with five years of marriage with no babies, could a machinist today save $10,000 per year ($1k/mo.?) Any 18 year old machinist you know can do that? I don’t think so. (But I wished.)

  7. Chris Adkins
    Chris Adkins says:

    I’d like to first start with the fact that I totally agree with you on the fact that 70% of our machining workforce is 45 years or older . I also agree that we need to influence the younger generation to take the step into the trade . I think the first step into doing this would be to quit the lies on money. 100k a year is very unrealistic in the machining industry. The average pay is 32k to 45k per year not 100k. I’ve been machining for over 25 years anything from mining to aerospace ,manual machining to multi axis, hand written cnc programming to software programming and I’ve never had a 100k year to date . Money is something everyone wants so employers dangle it like a carrot in front of them to keep driving them . Machining is not pushing a button all the time in a factory where 15 ph would be a norm . So why would a child want to become a machinist ? I know my son and daughter has seen the long days ,tons of weekends ,events never attended , stress and aggravation I’ve been through ,evenings when I get out of the truck and limp to the house because me feet and body hurt from the concrete floors . I totally believe in hard work and dedication and you can ask anyone . So the next question is why would I want my child to go through what I have ? And the answer is that I don’t , and I think I’m not alone in this opinion either . So until the workforce makes conditions better for the current employees machining I don’t think the influence will come in any form except lies from employers promising unrealistic benefits and profit to the up and coming machinist .

  8. Chris Pederson
    Chris Pederson says:

    I like the idea of joining CNC machining communities on social media. That could help me find groups that can get a job done for me. If not, I feel like that could still help me a community that I can join someday.


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