An Interview With Mike Berg, Precision Machining and Automation Instructor at Southeast Community College

An Interview With Mike Berg, Precision Machining and Automation Instructor at Southeast Community CollegeThere’s no better way to become familiar with STEM education than by listening to the teachers themselves.

And today, we thought we’d take a look at what manufacturing education looks like by talking with Mike Berg, an instructor at Southeast Community College’s Precision Machining and Automation program.

Here’s the full text of our interview with Mr. Berg:

What exactly do you teach at Southeast Community College?

I teach in the Precision Machining and Automation Program at SCC Milford Campus. This includes classroom classes: Machinery’s Handbook, Materials of Industry, CAD Classes (AutoCAD and Solid Works), and also a four-hour daily lab block. The lab setting is the “hands on” use of manual machine tools to complete assigned projects using lathes, mills, drill presses and precision surface and cylindrical grinders.

What’s your favorite thing about your job?

The most rewarding aspect of my job is the satisfaction of helping students with little or no machining experience develop into very competent tool makers that have the ability to problem-solve complex setups or machining sequences. In fact, many graduates work their way into management positions within a few years after graduation, and even go on to start their own businesses.

Do you have any previous experience in manufacturing? If so, what experience do you have?

I had no previous manufacturing experience before I began my education at SCC in the Machine Tool Program. I worked in a small job shop my last two quarters while attending SCC. After graduating in the Fall of 1983, I started my career working as a toolmaker for Ed Garner of Garner Industries in Lincoln, Nebraska.

What’s your biggest challenge as an instructor? 

One of my biggest challenges is helping the students develop problem-solving skills, and visualize how to break down a complex process into a simple, step-by-step approach.  

I know that recruiting young people to get educated/eventually get a job in manufacturing can be difficult, but do you find that once students are at SCC, they’re generally pretty happy with their course of study?

I believe that students are generally satisfied with their decision to enter the precision machining career, especially as they develop a better understanding of the “big picture” of precision machining, i.e., material selection, ergonomic part/product design, machining processes, etc. Students often incorporate precision machining skills to facilitate their hobbies and personal interests: automotive, hunting, fishing, farm repairs, etc.

What do you see as the biggest challenge to the manufacturing industry today?

I feel that the biggest challenge that the manufacturing industry continues to have is “image.”

Most people think of manufacturing factories as poorly lit, with greasy and dangerous machines. The fact is, the factories of most precision machining companies are extremely well-lit, with some of the most advanced “fully automated” machines money can buy, and a work environment that is climate-controlled.

Nebraska is known for its agriculture and the huge capital investment that goes with it. What most people do not understand is the potential return on investment that precision machine tools can generate. Another challenge facing manufacturing is the lack of highly skilled people to operate these machines to their full potential.

If you had to give one piece of advice to anyone even remotely interested in a career in manufacturing, what would that advice be?

Do you enjoy tinkering with things? Do you find yourself examining everyday items asking yourself how or why they made it like that? If you like to work with your hands, or use a computer to create your ideas into a product, a manufacturing career can offer challenging and financially rewarding opportunities.

We greatly appreciate Mr. Berg’s input to our questions about manufacturing. If you have any questions about our interview with Mr. Berg, you can contact us in the comments or on Twitter. Alternatively, if you’d like to ask Mr. Berg questions yourself, you can reach him at 1.800.933.7223, ext. 8207, or at mberg@southeast.edu.