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Chuck Mills - Education Is Tied to Jobs

Chuck Mills believes in the magic of manufacturing, as Mills Machines has grown up with Oklahoma’s energy industry. The shortage of skilled workers in Oklahoma is nothing new, now people are finally retiring. Business has to be engaged in education to fill the skills gap.
Chuck Mills - Education Is Tied to Jobs

Chuck Mills shows how his company starts with a solid piece of steel, which is machined and fabricated to make the final product: a geo-claw used by the geothermal industry.

 

 

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Mills Machine Company Inc.

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Show 1408: Chuck Mills - Education Is Tied to Jobs

Transcript

Rob McClendon: Well, we first met Chuck Mills last week. A strong advocate for middle class jobs, he is a proponent of tying today’s education to the jobs that are out there, something that his family company is a perfect example of. Mills Machines has literally grown up with Oklahoma’s energy industry. What began as a bicycle repair business over a hundred years ago is today a multimillion dollar manufacturer of earth-boring tools, drilling equipment of all shapes and sizes. In this week’s “Oklahoma Standard,” we recognize an individual who believes in the magic of manufacturing.

Alisa Hines: With a little bit of water and a little bit of fire, there’s magic happening at Mills Machine Co.

Chuck Mills: We start off with a solid piece of steel, like this. And this is pretty heavy, but its solid alloy steel, and we’re able to take this product, or this raw piece of material, and make it into this product. This is what we call a little geo-claw. This is for the geothermal industry. But you can see that there is a, obviously the body would be all machined. It’s got holes drilled in it for circulation. And then we fabricate these cutters to it. But to be able to take this product, or this raw piece of material, and make it into this product is like magic to me.

Alisa: Chuck Mills is president and says finding workers to help him make the magic isn’t easy.

Mills: It’s pretty tough. Because I think that with media and with parents, you know, it’s like, “Oh, let’s all go to college and be a doctor, be an attorney, you know be a scientist, be a forensic scientist” -- whatever. You know, they don’t really think about manufacturing as a career. And there are great opportunities. You can easily make $50 to $100,000 in a manufacturing environment. And people just don’t realize that.

Alisa: But training is a must.

Mills: In many instances, of course, they don’t have to go to college. They can go to a CareerTech, get a certificate, or a community college. With just a little education, maybe even just a year or two past high school, you can be knocking down some pretty good dollars. You gotta know the soft skills. And you know, if we can just have someone with some basic skills that will show up and want to work, that’s the real key. It’s really about being clean, showing up on time and wanting to learn, wanting to work. And of course my company, like most companies, the more you know the more you’re going to get paid. So if you want to learn and you want to get paid more, then all you have to do is have that attitude. It’s all about the attitude is the way it starts.

Alisa: And according to Chuck, the machining industry has changed.

Mills: You know a lot of people think, just like construction, it’s a hard, dirty job. And, you know we have an old shop here that was built in 1947, and when we go out into it you’ll smell a machine shop, which to me is the smell of money. Like people smell oil, they smell money, that’s what I smell, and it’s just a lot of history. But still, the environment is clean, you’re working it with a computerized equipment, and it’s really not as hot and dirty and nasty as people think.

Alisa: Thomas Combs has been working for Mills Machine for over 20 years and says the changes keep him on his toes.

Thomas Combs: When I first came to work here, the machining shop was full of manual machines. We had no CNC equipment, two old screw machines and about 20 hands doing the work. Since then, they’ve bought the CNCs, the mills, the lathes. We’ve culled down to where there’s just me running on the manuals now, and there’s three of us doing the work that nearly 20 did before.

Alisa: Tyler Robinson is new to the shop and says he likes making the magic happen.

Tyler Robinson: There will always be work for machinists. It’s something that will always be there forever, as far as I can tell anyway. It’s just a great trade to learn, and it keeps you on your toes. It keeps your mind sharp because you are always having to do math or whatnot. And it’s also fun.

Alisa: Now Chuck says that even though they have a small shop, they can still compete against bigger companies.

Chuck Mills: We can compete with the big guys. Matter of fact, you know image is everything, and especially with the website, with marketing and advertising, no one would know that we are not a 500-person company because we make so many different products and we make large products. I mean I’ve made drilling bits that were 110-inch diameter. So we’ve made really big, massive-type drilling bits for the construction industry, and then you know then we’ve made very small things as well. But we do work with a lot of OEMs as well, making product for them, private label. But we have our own line, and then we custom manufacture and modify from that line and provide solutions to peoples’ drilling problems.

Alisa: And competing worldwide.

Mills: Manufacturing is where it all starts. I mean everything else is a service. So if we’re not making things, then we’re not growing. And this state needs manufacturing. The United States needs manufacturing. You know, we have to compete with a lot of global interest in the world. We compete with China and Europe and the Middle East and South America every single day. No longer do we think about our competition in the next state. Our competition is global.

Alisa: Local manufacturing for a global economy.

Rob: Now, Chuck tells us he isn’t alone in needing skilled workers. Currently, there are about 4,500 advanced manufacturing employers in the state who employ roughly 10 percent of our state’s workforce. Chuck Mills, president of Mills Machines and this week’s “Oklahoma Standard.”

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