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First Employee for 2 yr old shop

Miller846

Aluminum
Joined
Oct 23, 2022
Good Morning, I just wanted to run this by all of you as I am new to hiring and being an employer. I have been needing a operator/setup guy for a while and have struck out on two employees so far. Both were hired with no prior machine shop experience. The first one was a 21 yr old guy who was with me for 3 weeks before I fired him. He worked really well when he was here and learned how to set the machines up quickly, but after a week he started showing up late and calling in more than he was here, each time with a different excuse as to why he couldn’t come in. I had a talk with him about it, he tried calling in the next day and I gave him a final warning to which he started talking back and I canned him on the spot. The second one is working for me still currently, but I don’t think he will workout either. He’s a 19 year old, has no prior machine shop work experience but did take a cnc mill course at a community college. He shows up every day early and is very respectful, but is extremely slow, has already been caught on his phone while machines are waiting, and can’t even grasp the simplest of things like cleaning the chips out of a vice before loading a new part or how to properly use a file. The first guy, I hired on at 18hr to start, due to no prior experience, my current guy is at 20.50/hr to start due to him having completed at least a mill course (which is proving to not be worth anything). I’m finding myself doing everything still while he watches because I can’t trust that he will clean the vices off well enough before loading more parts even after talking to him and showing him about 10-15 times. So with that being said, I think I’m going to give him the boot this week and try to find another person. My question is, is it better to just hire someone with a few years experience for a first employee? I don’t have the money to really hire someone with a bunch of experience as I am still a very small shop (and being in California doesn’t help), but I am leaning towards finding someone a little older with a little more experience on this next hire, I’m just worried that they’re going to want more than I can pay. What are your thoughts? Thanks!
 
I have said this many times, but I will say it again- since about 1988, I have been hiring employees who are just finished getting 2 year AA degrees in the trades from local community colleges. I did this in Southern California, and from 3 different schools in Washington State. I, myself, went to night school in machining at LA trade tech, and hired grads from there.
A kid who has committed 2 years of time, and their own money, to taking classes, which include things like math, and writing, that not everybody likes, has already proven they are committed to working with metal and can stick to it.
Like a job, you dont get to graduate unless you show up, do the work, and arent stoned or drunk.
Check into local community colleges.
CALL, not email, the instructors, explain your business, and ask them who to hire.
This works. I find that the instructors pre screen, and almost always, send me people right for my shop. They are all, in my experience, deeply interested in seeing their students succeed.
I have hired, over the years, probably between 30 and 40 men and women, from welding, machining, manufacturing tech, and automotive design programs.
Many worked for me for 3 to 5 years.
 
I have said this many times, but I will say it again- since about 1988, I have been hiring employees who are just finished getting 2 year AA degrees in the trades from local community colleges. I did this in Southern California, and from 3 different schools in Washington State. I, myself, went to night school in machining at LA trade tech, and hired grads from there.
A kid who has committed 2 years of time, and their own money, to taking classes, which include things like math, and writing, that not everybody likes, has already proven they are committed to working with metal and can stick to it.
Like a job, you dont get to graduate unless you show up, do the work, and arent stoned or drunk.
Check into local community colleges.
CALL, not email, the instructors, explain your business, and ask them who to hire.
This works. I find that the instructors pre screen, and almost always, send me people right for my shop. They are all, in my experience, deeply interested in seeing their students succeed.
I have hired, over the years, probably between 30 and 40 men and women, from welding, machining, manufacturing tech, and automotive design programs.
Many worked for me for 3 to 5 years.
That’s solid advice! In your experience, has someone who went to trade school for 2 years any better or worse than somebody who has worked in a job shop for 2 years (real world experience). Thank you!
 
That’s solid advice! In your experience, has someone who went to trade school for 2 years any better or worse than somebody who has worked in a job shop for 2 years (real world experience). Thank you!
I like the people fresh from trade school- they have fewer bad habits, and generally , work hard at their first job. But it depends if you are expecting very specific experience. For instance, if you have a specific brand of EDM, and you want someone who knows that machine, fresh trade school grads wont have that experience. I have had to train these people, for sure- but they already know how to tell aluminum from stainless, what an end mill is, how to measure, and cut, that there are actually national fine and national coarse threads- its not like they are just high school grads.
I have hired "experienced" guys before, like the weldor who told me "you cant tig weld rebar", when I had been making a product line doing just that for 6 or 8 years. Some old hands are great, but I would rather teach a fresh puppy (and that doesnt mean young- almost all of my hires have been in the 25 to 35 year old range, including a fair amount of vets who got GI benefits to pay for trade school), than un-teach a know-it-all.
Again, it depends on what you need done, and how standard it is.
 
The best I've got is: Hiring people, and developing people that grow into reliable, trustworthy employees amounts to Voodoo, luck, opportunity. It's a crap shoot, and every person you look at is a completely different shape.

1) You have to let people go if they've breached some kind of line you've got drawn in the sand. Sounds like you are aware of this. Advice: Carefully evaluate why you are doing that and consider the following: A) If it's Late all the time, bad attitude, slacking or screwing off, give them the boot (you've already done this), but B) If it's a Learning or Knowledge thing, carefully consider the effort and time needed to bring that up to speed with internal coaching or additional schooling versus going back to the Crap Shoot hoping for someone better.

2) #1 amounts to "Fire fast for bad attitude and failing to show up, fire slow for competency issues that could be fixed with training".

3) See if you can research what the hiring market is doing in your area. Use online resources, talk to other manufacturing businesses or friends/neighbors that might be in the same business. Essentially #3 here gives you info that supports decisions you are trying to make in #1 and #2. Here in Michigan, east side of Detroit, it's just abysmal. Awful. The Company has been looking for Mill hands, grinders, and Dedtru people for like 2 years. Most people that show up aren't qualified AT ALL to touch a CNC machine, and of the ones that do get hired they end up quitting or just no-show quitting within 2 weeks to 2 months. At a guess, 90% of the already rare occurrence of netting someone quits within a short period. We've only retained a small %, but, at least we retained someone in the process, and they are doing fine.

You bump into Unicorns now and then who represent exactly what you hoped to see in an applicant. We have a couple of those. But it's a rare thing, so, hope for it of course, but prepare for all the rest as best you can.

Screw offs get booted right away. Everyone else, sit back and think through precisely what their training holes are and how bad, and mull that over.

Best of luck to you
 
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The best I've got is: Hiring people, and developing people that grow into reliable, trustworthy employees amounts to Voodoo, luck, opportunity. It's a crap shoot, and every person you look at is a completely different shape.

1) You have to let people go if they've breached some kind of line you've got drawn in the sand. Sounds like you are aware of this. Advice: Carefully evaluate why you are doing that and consider the following: A) If it's Late all the time, bad attitude, slacking or screwing off, give them the boot (you've already done this), but B) If it's a Learning or Knowledge thing, carefully consider the effort and time needed to bring that up to speed with internal coaching or additional schooling versus going back to the Crap Shoot hoping for someone better.

2) #1 amounts to "Fire fast for bad attitude and failing to show up, fire slow for competency issues that could be fixed with training".

3) See if you can research what the hiring market is doing in your area. Use online resources, talk to other manufacturing businesses or friends/neighbors that might be in the same business. Essentially #3 here gives you info that supports decisions you are trying to make in #1 and #2. Here in Michigan, east side of Detroit, it's just abysmal. Awful. The Company has been looking for Mill hands, grinders, and Dedtru people for like 2 years. Most people that show up aren't qualified AT ALL to touch a CNC machine, and of the ones that do get hired they end up quitting or just no-show quitting within 2 weeks to 2 months. At a guess, 90% of the already rare occurrence of netting someone quits within a short period. We've only retained a small %, but, at least we retained someone in the process, and they are doing fine.

You bump into Unicorns now and then who represent exactly what you hoped to see in an applicant. We have a couple of those. But it's a rare thing, so, hope for it of course, but prepare for all the rest as best you can.

Screw offs get booted right away. Everyone else, sit back and think through precisely what their training holes are and how bad, and mull that over.

Best of luck to you
Thank you for the response! I like the attitude of my current guy, he just seems to have an extremely hard to time learning new things and it gets frustrating when I have to tell him and show him how to clean a vice over and over again and still leaves chip dents in the parts. I’ve been finding myself dreading when he comes in and happy when he clocks out because he just slows me down and takes a lot of hand holding. With that being said, you can teach skills, can’t teach attitude so I might try and stick it out with him a little longer in hopes he starts retaining what I’m trying to show him.
 
We as machine shop owners frequently make the mistake of hiring for the wrong positions early on.

The reason why you feel the need to hire someone to begin with is because there's more work than you can handle, but perhaps it's not work in the shop that's overwhelming you. You're likely spending a sizable portion of your time in the office, packing/shipping parts, procuring supplies/materials, collecting payments, etc. Consider hiring for these tasks instead, and leaving all of the manufacturing to the person who's most competent: you.

As for your current hire, based on the limited amount of information, it doesn't seem like it'll work out. Operator/setup is really a glorified title for someone who can't remember to clean chips off vise jaws. Have you looked into automation? It's a force multiplier that's basically 2-10X you.
 
it gets frustrating when I have to tell him and show him how to clean a vice over and over again and still leaves chip dents in the parts.
Not sure exactly how this interaction is going, but maybe a different approach here -- rather than you showing him, just tell him he needs to do it again and watch him, and coach him from the sideline, perhaps he needs to do it himself rather than (just) watch you in order for him to "get it." (?) just an idea....

Another idea is to dock a portion of his pay for each chip dent (I know there was a long discussion a couple of months ago about the legalities of such a practice...) Basically incentivize his paying attention to the details with rewards and/or punishments that matter to him...
 
None of us are there, we don't know the employee in question, etc., but I think GreyhawkUSA30340 has a training point worth thinking through. I've seen this repeatedly in my current shop, and the last one I was at: People repeatedly getting something wrong, sometimes simple stuff, and they just rely on someone else to show them again and/or do it for them. It's all word of mouth, on the fly, and the employee gets to stand back and watch someone else show/do it while they stand by.

Having him do it, while you coach him through it makes sense. And by coaching I'm talking about a specifically worded dialog designed to see if he understands WHY it has to be done right. Don't just hand him the answer up front, but politely probe for HIM to provide the answer first.

If he's not doing something he should, or even if he's doing something right, double check with him once in a while to see if he knows WHY the action is important. Let him know what the impacts to the next person are if he does it wrong, or the negative impacts to the part(s). That there's a REASON for the doing it the right way. People are often trained to do something, and for some inexplicable reason sometimes they just don't grasp WHY doing it the right way is what keeps you on track.

Greyhawk made a good point.
 
We as machine shop owners frequently make the mistake of hiring for the wrong positions early on.

The reason why you feel the need to hire someone to begin with is because there's more work than you can handle, but perhaps it's not work in the shop that's overwhelming you. You're likely spending a sizable portion of your time in the office, packing/shipping parts, procuring supplies/materials, collecting payments, etc. Consider hiring for these tasks instead, and leaving all of the manufacturing to the person who's most competent: you.

As for your current hire, based on the limited amount of information, it doesn't seem like it'll work out. Operator/setup is really a glorified title for someone who can't remember to clean chips off vise jaws. Have you looked into automation? It's a force multiplier that's basically 2-10X you.
YES.

If I could do it over again, my first hire would be somebody who can help with office duties. Putting in the admin work is so critical to building a good foundation for growth.
 
You mention the use of a file. You should be focusing on taking everything possible away from your low level employees. EG: Deburr everything in the machine so they can't fuck up your parts with a file in their stupid caveman brains.

Also, probing everything, every cycle has made a huge difference for us. Even if you have a massive work stop painted titty pink, they'll miss it shockingly consistently. But the probe won't. You can alarm the machine out or just update the offset and carry on. If you throw an alarm, you better have a view of the red light yourself, because your employees sure as hell won't acknowledge a huge flashing red light themselves.

Also, robots. They make way better coworkers.
 
None of us are there, we don't know the employee in question, etc., but I think GreyhawkUSA30340 has a training point worth thinking through. I've seen this repeatedly in my current shop, and the last one I was at: People repeatedly getting something wrong, sometimes simple stuff, and they just rely on someone else to show them again and/or do it for them. It's all word of mouth, on the fly, and the employee gets to stand back and watch someone else show/do it while they stand by.

Having him do it, while you coach him through it makes sense. And by coaching I'm talking about a specifically worded dialog designed to see if he understands WHY it has to be done right. Don't just hand him the answer up front, but politely probe for HIM to provide the answer first.

If he's not doing something he should, or even if he's doing something right, double check with him once in a while to see if he knows WHY the action is important. Let him know what the impacts to the next person are if he does it wrong, or the negative impacts to the part(s). That there's a REASON for the doing it the right way. People are often trained to do something, and for some inexplicable reason sometimes they just don't grasp WHY doing it the right way is what keeps you on track.

Greyhawk made a good point.
When I am teaching something I try to keep my hand clasp behind my back. That way the person in training has to find and press all the buttons and manipulate everything themselves. If you do it for them they will not retain it as well as if they had to actually do it for themselves.
 
This reminds me of some of the apprentices I've had. It's a crap shoot. Had one hired off the street who was a CPA with no manufacturing background. Turned out to be one of the best I'd ever seen in all phases of our trade. Others that had some experience on the outside, sucked. Lazy, cocky, wouldn't listen, pouts when shown what they did wrong, you name it. Some turned out OK, while still having strong and weak areas of expertise.
 
If what you say about the second guy is true, say goodbye.
When you interview someone, you need to see if he/she has any real desire to be in that field of work.
Talk and find out what they do for a hobby...Gameboy or RC airplanes??....do they actually seem interested in the machine and the process??
Stick a part in his/her hand....do they actually "look" at it ...or just stand there and hold it ???
Anyone with interest should look at it and see how it was machined...find him/her.....
Someone with no interest .....will never work out.
 
I poached my first employee from my former employer. He could run manual machines, program, set up and run CNC’s, and run the place when I was gone.

It wasn’t cheap, but it definitely paid off. Then he could supervise the mouth breathers I went thru after that.
 
When you interview someone, you need to see if he/she has any real desire to be in that field of work.
The biggest predictor of success isn't intelligence or natural ability, but rather how motivated or interested someone is.

I saw a large number of really sharp and gifted people flunk out miserably out of their first semester of Uni.

Right now my wife and I are trying to help my brother in law get his first job. The kid is bright, but we just can't get him going. All he's done the last half of a year is play counter strike. He finished a vocational school in Serbia for CNC programming (with high grades), but he just seems uninterested in persuing a job.
 
BobW has said a few times in the past on here that he will poach from anywhere he sees a good worker, if I recall he got one from the auto parts store and one was a waitress. I think the field of work doesn't matter as much as if the potential employee is a good worker and hustler already.
 
Single mom's and I'm not talking the one's with 15 kids because they can't keep their legs closed make some of the greatest workers. Pure survival is a great motivator and if they can see a path forward to a even better life will put in the effort.

Don't treat your employees like idiots. They are also humans not consumables. Be honest in apportioning blame including where you are to blame and cut your losses immediately if necessary. It may pay to get a trusted third party to speak to employees.
 
One of the crane hire contractors used to give me a coupla bucks for spotting potential employees for him.....You got to know someone for six months ,to know if their reliable,punctual,and more importantly work centered ........of course that would be a bad word in todays touchy feely maternity leave for men world.
 








 
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