Ran across an interesting article the other day on the diminished employment prospects of college grads. Other than grads in a few engineering fields, their prospects are pretty grim- typically 20% or more can’t find any work and half can’t find work even remotely in their field of study. And for those that can find work, pay tends to be in the twenty grand a year range, barely above minimum wage. Add in the student loans they’ll have to pay back, and they’d probly been better off not going to college at all.

Meanwhile, I just received word that after two months the BMW motorcycle heads I shipped across country for a valve and seat replacement are almost done. And I got mine in before the peak of the winter rebuild rush, riders that sent their’s in later may be waiting until well into the riding season. Why? Well, there’s maybe a handful of techs out there that specialize in aircooled BMW cylinder head work, and they don’t seem to be training any more. Clearly, any tech competent in aircooled engine machine work will have more work than they can handle… So one would think there’d be at least a few new techs in training.

So I headed over to the website of the technical college system here in Minnesota to investigate and searched with the term “automotive machinist”. I found but two certificate programs, one for cylinder head repair and one for engine block repair, in the whole state. I click on the program’s links and am ushered off to a webpage for the tech college’s automotive programs, with no mention of the automotive machinist program. From my previous experience with the site, that usually means while the specific program isn’t dead and buried yet, it’s on life support with no classes taught any more.  So I search under “motorcycle” and find one program in the whole state. I look through the courses offered and it’s clear they’re just training parts swappers rather than rebuilders. That search pops up a couple other programs to train “small engine mechanics” and such, and as one can imagine the coursework in these programs is even more diluted to cover outboards, snowmobiles, mowers, etc. as well as the odd motorcycle. Search on “machinist” and you find a bunch of programs to train CNC operators and the odd program in basic machining- I’d hate to see a precious classic motorcycle engine after being attacked by a CNC robot!

That’s just the beginning of our abandonment of teaching the essential skills of how to make and fix things- Just saw the auction notice for a sale at my local technical college. They’re auctioning off what sounds like most of the diesel tech training programs physical assets, including the building. My neighbor the truck tech can’t retire because customers are still sending him trucks to fix, and we’re closing the training program for new truck techs?

Meanwhile, this spring a million or so students will be awarded near worthless college degrees, soon to be followed by student loan payment bills that will toll on forever. Next time I see some engine machining machinery come up at auction, think I’m gonna buy ’em and give ’em to my nephews and niece!

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