Ep. 54 – E.J. Daigle on Technical Education That Works

By Noah Graff

In today’s podcast we discuss what a person can get for $20,000 per year at a highly regarded technical college. Our guest is E.J. Daigle, Dean of Robotics and Manufacturing at Dunwoody College of Technology in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is also lead faculty member of the school’s top ranked robotic snow plow team. Dunwoody College offers associate and bachelor degrees in a variety of fields, such as construction sciences, engineering, robotics, architecture, and machining.

Scroll down to listen to the podcast.

E.J. explicitly talks about how Dunwoody emphasizes hands-on learning. He says that Dunwoody students in the machining department receive 15 hours of lab time per week working on equipment.Main Points of the Interview

(2:55) E.J. gives the history of Dunwoody College, which was started in 1914 in Minnesota by William Hood Dunwoody, an entrepreneur who made his fortune as a silent partner in the Washburn Crosby company, which later became General Mills.

(5:45) E.J. describes Dunwoody as a polytechnic college that offers certificates, as well as associates and bachelors degrees. He says that the school believes in a “learn by doing approach,” and that it is not uncommon for Dunwoody students to be in lab (working on equipment) 8 to 15 hours per week.

(7:53) E.J. tells his personal story of going into the U.S. Navy out of high school, where he worked on nuclear submarines for 10 years. Before his first submarine was commissioned, E.J. worked in the shipyards alongside the people constructing the vessel, which he says gave him a good view into a variety of manufacturing processes.

(9:50) E.J. draws parallels between the hands-on learning style he experienced in the Navy to that at Dunwoody College.

(13:50) E.J. talks about how Dunwoody approaches the diverse previous academic backgrounds of its students, particularly in math.

(16:05) E.J. talks about the success of a significant portion of older students at Dunwoody who are former laid off autoworkers

(16:55) E.J. says Dunwoody graduates around 20 students a year from its Machine Tool Program and the school generally receives 300 requests to hire them.

(20:10) E.J. cites studies which say in the next 10 years the manufacturing industry will be 2 million workers short.

(23:00) E.J. says that a 2-year associate degree costs $40,000 in tuition. He says that last year’s Machine Tool class had a 100 percent job placement. He also says it is not uncommon for a third of the students in the Machine Tool Program to quit after only one year because they find jobs they like before graduating.

(27:40) E.J. says that Dunwoody encourages its associate degree graduates to continue their education with the school’s programs for entrepreneurship, management, or engineering. Often students work and go to school part-time to further their education.

(32:00) E.J. says that too many kids pick colleges based on the wrong criteria, rather than choosing based on what they are interested in doing after graduation.

(35:35) E.J. talks enthusiastically about his experience as the lead faculty member of Dunwoody’s autonomous robotic snow plow team, which is ranked number one in the world.

(39:00) E.J. discusses some of the extraordinary projects that Dunwoody graduates have worked on, such as making components for the Mars Rover, and components that went into the drills that saved the Chilean miners.

Question: Is higher education worth the money?

Share this post

2 thoughts on “Ep. 54 – E.J. Daigle on Technical Education That Works

  1. r in nyc

    As I have said;

    Why do we never speak of apprenticeship programs?

    The “Degree” is but a piece of paper and a ticket to the Ball.

    It is up to the individual, who they dance with, and maybe take home 😉

    IMHO, I think a community college degree is the best value.
    If it is in a marketable field. look up salaries by degree, whats at the bottom? “Liberal Arts” imagine that.

    “I got an degree in Tasmanian Aboriginal basket weaving history, and I don’t know why I can’t find a great paying job. And how am gonna pay off $400K in student loans” Duhhhhh
    “would you like french fries with that?”
    They are not getting a house or condo – It really sux living in your parents’ basement waiting for someone to die and leave you some money. And since you never studied statistics, you don’t even suspect that the lottery is a waste of money!

    An expert must have three things. Education, training AND Experience! Most so-called experts have only the first one or two…

    Most useful things I learned were from working. Having to solve problems under pressure.
    i.e.: experience!

    All the academics and theoretical BS went out the window as soon as the first problem popped up. That’s when you need common sense, but that too has died a horrific death.

    Most of the trades now require a very technical education as well.

    Most HVAC, cars, appliances “smart homes”, etc… are computer controlled.
    So you have to know and capable with today’s ever changing technology!

    Most people are amazed when they find out I only have a 2 year degree.
    “Where did you learn that?” – “The School of Hard Knocks!”

    In addition to the news, internet , and books, I keep reading and studying trade periodicals from many fields and industries, as well as continuing education programs, to keep myself relevant.

    When you stop learning, get ready to die, or your mind will die…

  2. Paul Huber

    Higher education is worth the money only if the individual has established a specific goal for a specific career.
    It is a total waste of money if the student had been railroaded into college in order to to end up with a piece of paper as proof of graduation.
    The , just about, 50% college drop out rate is sustained by these poor souls. They are a profitable source of income of the “colleges industry ” and providers of student loans.
    Apprenticeship, internship or any skilled labor training can provide a solid foundation for a college education while being gainfully employed.
    Every single H.R. person complains that that our K-12 education system does not prepare students for college and even less so for higher education.
    Average science, math and reading achievements in science, math and reading of U.S. students is ranked 30th out of 71 countries researched by PISA.
    Only about twenty states offer a STEM curriculum to its middle and/or high school students, mainly because there is no money allocated for space and STEM teachers salary. Many states reject the call to align their educational system to the demands of new technology used by business, industry and manufacturers. Leave us alone, we know better, never admitting that the next generation is going to suffer.
    Also, life long learning is not in the mind of our workforce proven by the high unemployment rates of workers over age forty.


Comments are closed.