Precision Machining Class in Session, with Jerod Dailey-EP 207

January 18, 2024 - 11:47am -- Selcuk Gulboy
Jerod Dailey, Precision Machining Instructor at South Adams High School in Northeast Indiana

My guest on today’s podcast, Jerod Dailey, could have been a mechanical engineer or even a doctor if he wanted to, but instead, he followed his passion and became a journeyman machinist right out of high school.

Then he fell into a career 24 years ago, teaching precision machining to high schoolers at South Adams High School in Northeast Indiana, which happens to be the Number 1 machining region in the United States.

Jerod’s classes sound fascinating and challenging. They usually ditch the text book to do hands-on projects like build a car engine from scratch using high-end CNC and manual equipment.

His mission is to teach kids real skills that will make them elite precision machinists when they get into the working world. He wants his students to have the same confidence in themselves that he has, and to be problem solvers, not button pushers.

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Interview Highlights

Noah: What got you interested in machining?

Jerod: I was on track to be an architect until I found out that meant six years of college. I knew college wasn’t for me. I could have gotten the grades. I was a good test taker. But I just didn’t want to go down that path.

Towards the end of my sophomore year, my guidance counselor pulled me in his office and said, Hey, they’re starting up this new class at South Adams. We think you’d be good for it. We looked at your transcript and seeing you’ve taken every shop class, we think you’d be good for this new machine trades class. So, I signed up for it. The rest is history as they say.

Noah: After you graduated and did your apprenticeship what brought you back to teach at South Adams?

Jerod: They were talking about shutting down the class, and I knew how much it had helped me get started.

Noah: Your old teacher was leaving, correct?

Jerod: Yeah, he was taking over the machining program at a local college. We were talking one day, and I said, well, if they’re going to shut it down because you’re leaving, what would it take for me to start teaching? 

So he checked, and it was possible in Indiana for people to go straight from industry (to teaching). Having done a registered apprenticeship gave me enough documented training.

Noah: When you first started teaching did you use the textbook? 

Jerod: We started going through the textbook, but right before Thanksgiving that first year, three of the students came up to me.

They said, this isn’t working. And I said, good, because this isn’t working for me. How can we change it? 

Thanksgiving break, I racked my brain and definitely prayed about it. I came back in the afternoon class and said, hey guys, we’re going to build an engine. We’re going to design and build an engine from scratch.

And we basically designed an engine on the chalkboard. We had colored chalk for the different parts. We went through the Machinery’s Handbook for fits and allowances. We went through strength and materials. We even made a dummy connecting rod and stress tested it. We went through a lot of the engineering, and then every student made their own parts.

And this is the twenty-fourth year. We design a new project every year in the afternoon class.

Noah Graff: Do you have standardized tests that you have to give in your class?

Jerod: We have a NIMS test. It’s all on the computer. Job planning, bench work layout, measurement, material, and safety. There’s a project you have to do. You have to pass the test online to be able to get the certification.

Noah: Many of Graff-Pinkert’s machine shop customers tell us their operators are only willing to run one type of machine. Why do you think that is?

Jerod: That’s probably one of the biggest things I’ve seen over 24 years. The confidence level of today’s youth is not as high for things they’ve never done before. 

I think standardized tests and things like that have affected them. I tell my students multiple times a week that my goal is to fail a hundred times a day. Because if you’re not failing, you’re not learning anything.

Noah: When we prepared for this interview, you gave me a quote about 96% of the population. Can you summarize that for me?

Jerod: Basically, 2% of the world’s population can think like Einstein or has the athletic ability of Michael Jordan. They can do stuff that nobody else can do.

And then there’s 2% that may have a mental or physical handicap, so they can’t do what the rest of the population can do. That leaves 96% in the middle (who have the potential to do anything).

Now is it stuff we should be doing? That’s another question. Are we following our talents? Are we following our path that God set us on? 

Could I go be a banker? I think I could. Do I want to? No. Could I go be a doctor? Possibly. Do I want to? No.

Noah:  How does it make you feel when you see the impact you’re having on a student?

Jerod: Seeing the aha moment. You know, when a kid’s frustrated, can’t figure it out. All of a sudden it clicks, and they kind of see the connection. That’s probably the coolest moment.

Noah Graff: You often talk to students and parents about the merits of apprenticeships versus college. Tell me about that.

Jerod: I swore as long as I was going to be (teaching), I would never get a college degree. The first parent teacher conference talking to the parents of C or D students in the core classes I tell them I was making $50,000 a year in Adams County, Indiana, and I didn’t have a college degree. That was four years out of high school, and I was making $50,000. I explain that to them and how apprenticeships work. You can just see their eyes light up.

Noah: Do you have any advice for administrators and teachers relating to the trades?

Jerod: Stay in contact with your local industry, the manufacturers, the value-added companies. That’s where the biggest tax dollars are coming from. 

When it comes to recruiting, one of the biggest things people tell the companies is stay in contact with the teachers.

If you’re a machinist, the best thing you can do for our career, our trade, is to let the young people know what you do and how you do it and what it’s for. I challenge people to think of one thing that machining has not touched.

Question: If you could go back in time, would you have gone to college?


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