Jeston Porter

Jul 10, 2023 hireCNC

My CNC Story - Jeston Porter


My CNC Story with Jeston Porter

The skilled labor shortage continues to be the largest challenge manufacturers face. Enoch Precision Machining (enochmachining.com) located south of Portland, OR took up that challenge by implementing their own in-house technical training program to address the skills gap.

Jeston Porter, Enoch’s full-time Lead Trainer recently discussed their unique, but highly-effective solution with Jon House of hireCNC.


hireCNC: How did you get started in CNC machining?

Jeston: I started working at Warn Industries as an assembler. My dad and other family members were all machinists there. I began assembling small winches- ATV winches. I started wondering how these parts are made. Why are these ones not fitting together like they should be? I talked with my dad a little bit, he showed me some of the things that he was doing, and I thought that was really interesting. So, I took a couple of classes at a community college, learned some manual machining and just fell in love with cutting metal. I started applying for a bunch of machining jobs at Warn and ended up getting overlooked, so I started looking outside. The first job that I applied for called me back the next day for an interview and at the end of the interview, they said, “hey, you want the job?” I gave my two weeks’ notice that night at Warn and moved on, spending about six months as a button pusher, trying to soak up some knowledge, but not really getting a lot of training.

I finally talked to my supervisor and said, “I would like to learn what I'm doing here, otherwise I'm going to look somewhere else.” He brought in a guy that had worked there before specifically to train me. I spent the better part of eight years with him, just learning everything I could- how to set up all the mechanical functions, how to do offsets all that. And then he started teaching me how to program. At the shop I worked at, we didn't have engineers, so all the machinists would write the programs line by line on the machine, and that's how I learned how to program. That's how I got into it.


hireCNC: How did you transition from machining to now overseeing the training at Enoch?

Jeston: When I came to Enoch, I had no experience on Swiss machines, and that's where they started me. I took what I knew about programming on a conventional lathe and applied that as best as I could to a Swiss machine. I learned how the Swiss machines worked and quickly became the go-to problem solver.

When I became a supervisor, I kind of dabbled in teaching. Not long after I got hired at Enoch, we bought a machining training curriculum, and I was one of the first ones to go through that class with a few other people. I learned a lot of stuff that wasn’t covered in my on-the-job training.

I went through the first class, learned some things, but there were some things that weren't quite right for us, so we ended up editing. My boss was teaching the class and asked me to help. That's what got me into the training part of things. I didn't think I could do it because I'm such an introvert, but I was a natural. I did some on the machine training before that. It naturally progressed from there. I became a supervisor, trainer, machinist- doing all kinds of stuff. Then Enoch decided they wanted to go full time into training. They wanted to focus on training because it's one of the biggest problems. You get people that don't know what they're doing. Nobody's helping them out except for, “Here's how you do this”, and then they walk away. There wasn't any structured training, and Enoch wanted me to be a part of it.

I said, “yeah, I'll give it a shot.” I've been doing that for almost two years as a full-time trainer, editing, creating curriculum, researching, finding articles that are going to help everyone and then training on the machines in the classroom. What are the fundamentals of machining? What's the math you need to learn? All that kind of stuff.


hireCNC: Is the training exclusively for new employees or is it part of ongoing training for all machinist employees?

Jeston: If you’re hired and want to be a machinist, you want to learn. Most of your time is spent on the machines, running parts, learning how things work, but we take 2 hours each week in the classroom and teach. Right now, I have three classes, each at a different level. I take about 6 hours out of my work week to do classroom training. The rest of my time is spent either in my office working on curriculum or research and on the machine training. I teach conventional lathes and Swiss- most of what our work is. I've never actually set up a mill, but I've spent 16 years working with lathes. I share what knowledge I can, try to help people problem solve certain things and try to make them the best that they can be.


hireCNC: That's unique to have an organized training curriculum for the company. I haven't seen a lot of that, but I think it's great. Can you give me an idea of the size of the machining department? How many machinists do you have employed?

Jeston: I think we have 15 machinists right now, and we've had upwards of 30 at any given time but had a lot of people retire recently. There's a labor problem right now. It seems to be not just here, but worldwide and not just a certain industry either. It's widespread. We try to keep the classes to six people max, because with too many people it gets hard to keep everyone at the same pace. We teach all our machinists regardless of if they have 20 years or two months of experience. We're trying to get everybody on the same page, and it seems to be working.


hireCNC: Because of the training curriculum, will you hire people that have zero or very limited experience in machining because you're confident that if they have the right attitude, the curriculum can teach them to be successful?

Jeston: Absolutely. I've actually proven it. We have trained people that have zero experience. Some people are straight out of high school. One of the guys, Chase, is one of our engineers now. He's 23, I think, but he didn't go to college. He came to us straight out of high school, and we taught him how things work. Well, part of that is him. He's a super smart guy, so he quickly rose through the ranks, and he is in engineering now. I'm also teaching a guy who I think is 61 years old. He's never done any machining in his life. He said that the most math he'd ever done was up to division. He dropped out of school before high school, and I taught him how to do algebra. He aced his first test. He's really trying. What we as a company have discovered is if you have the right attitude and the ability to learn, you can be taught anything. It doesn't matter how old you are, how young you are, what kind of experience you have. If you're willing to learn, you can be taught. And that’s what we want to do.

Our goal is not really to rush people into it, but to guide them at their pace. The curriculum is designed to take about 45 weeks for two levels that include the basics, math, and a little bit of programming and set up. So, we're looking at about 45 weeks of classroom training and on the job training. We've seen employees with zero experience start being set up people in less than three months. They have no experience, they come in the door, we teach them some things and they start setting up. We want them to advance as quickly as possible.

There was one person that we had working here. Her name was Jocelyn. She was awesome. She was smart. She was driven. We taught her how the machine works. We showed her how things work, how to set things up and started teaching her how to program things. She was setting up three different types of machines within six months. But then there's other people that take a little bit longer.

They say you can't teach an old dog new tricks, but you can. The 61-year-old guy that I mentioned before, he's taking a little bit longer to learn the things, but he is learning. He is trying. He is starting to learn setup. He's been into machining for about three to six months. He learns a little slower, but we're still teaching him. It’s at an individual pace and you can't really expect the same thing out of everybody.


hireCNC: Would you have any advice if there are other machine shops that want to adopt the kind of the Enoch model of having an internal training curriculum for machining? Is there any advice you'd give to them in terms of getting started or what's important to think about when you're organizing training for machinists?

Jeston: I would say figure out what you want to do as a shop. If you're a job shop or a production shop or whatever you are, find out what that is and what’s important for people to know for your shop. I would say be as clear and concise as possible. Figure out what it is that you want to do. What is your thing? Are you a mill shop? Are you a lathe shop? Do you do both? Because if you're a lathe shop, you don't really need to teach a lot of milling. If you're a mill shop, you probably don't need to teach a lot of lathe stuff. If you want your training to be successful, you need to make it engaging.


hireCNC: What does that training look like?

Jeston: It is a written curriculum. We make a binder for everyone that's got the entire curriculum. There are questions and answers throughout. It seems to work pretty well. Sometimes I'll search a YouTube video and say, this is what this is, for example a trunnion table. It's kind of hard to imagine what that's doing when it’s just a picture in a book. So, I'll look up a video and show them- like a Mazak Integrex turnmill machine. It’s mentioned a bit in the book, but this is a really cool machine to see, so I'll show them a video of what that does. I do want to make some video content, but we haven't done that yet. As of right now, it is just in the book.

We do open book tests. The reason for that is, as a machinist, you generally have your phone or a computer or something to look up information. If you can look something up, you should be able to work your way through it. That's kind of the point of the training, is to teach people how to work their way through it and give them the basics.

We'll go through several pages of feeds and speeds and making those calculations.

For print reading, we have a chapter on that. What does this symbol mean? Where are you going to find this? There's a lot of engagement where they're actually doing work, not just reading a book. That's how we have it set up right now.


hireCNC: In terms of social media, you seem active on LinkedIn. How has it benefited you in terms of the work that you're doing? And why have you chosen to be active on a platform like LinkedIn?

Jeston: I didn't think about starting on LinkedIn. I didn't really care about it, but our CEO said, “Hey, I think you should make a LinkedIn page and start promoting what we're doing.” I started getting a little more active and connecting with people in the industry. It's really opened my eyes to exactly how much is out there; how many people love this industry and are trying to promote it. It's a huge thing and I love being a part of it. It's really helped me in a sense that I can tell people when I'm working with high schools or whatever, I can tell these kids there's always an opportunity out there. There's a lot of manufacturing jobs that aren't necessarily even machining or assembly or any of that. You can be in design, you can be a programmer, you can be a social media influencer or a marketer or sales. There are so many different opportunities. It's opened my eyes, in a sense that there's more to it than I thought there was.


hireCNC: What preconceived notions do we as an industry need to set straight regarding the CNC trade?

Jeston: I think one thing that needs to change is this isn't as dirty job as it's portrayed a lot of times, especially now. It used to be dirty. You’d be covered in chips and oil and grease, which still is the case sometimes. But you can't be afraid to get your hands dirty. You don't have to think that this is a disgustingly, dirty, dingy job though. There are a lot of really clean shops out there, and it's a lot more technical than some people think it is. You say you're a machinist, and some people picture George Jetson just sitting there at his desk while parts are flying by. Some days that's the case where you're running a job lights out and you don't have a lot to do. But sometimes you're running around, setting up over here, solving problems over there, running a part over here- especially in a job shop. It really depends on the day what you're doing, but it's more technical than people think it is. It's less dirty than people think it is, and it's a lot of fun.

I love working on machines. I love cutting metal.

If you're interested in something, learn everything that you can about it. I would advise everybody to learn everything that you can. And don't think you're ever going to know everything, because you're not, but you should take the time to learn. I didn’t do that at first, and I spent a lot of time stuck. If there's any advice that I have- there are always opportunities out there, especially if you learn everything that you can.


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