After Losing Nearly Everything, Titan Gilroy has a New Mission in Life—To Teach Young People the Joy, Importance of Manufacturing
From boxing in the ring to building his own successful machining company, Titan Gilroy knows how to fight. His machine shop in Northern California went from “basically nothing” in 2005 to 55 employees and 20 CNC machine tools just a few years later. He went from zero dollars in his pocket to making millions in just a few years. He made precision titanium components for sub-sea customers like Schilling Robotics. It looked as though Gilroy was unstoppable. And then the recession hit.
“We lost around 80% of our work basically overnight,” said Gilroy. “I had to lay off 40 employees. I lost my house and cars. And I kept thinking that, at the end of the day, none of it really mattered if it could all be gone so quickly.”
That experience also made Gilroy think about the 50,000 companies that had gone out of business during the recession, and how the shops that remained—many of which he once competed against—were using only a fraction of their capabilities, but were blinded to that fact because they weren't talking to other manufacturing people. “They were locked up in their buildings, everyone in their own little bubble, literally fighting over scraps,” he said. “From that point on, I decided to dedicate my entire life to education.”
Gilroy started his TV show, TITANS of CNC (formerly TITAN American Built), so that he could share what he had learned and bring awareness of manufacturing to the public. After the third season, however, he began to realize that he must do more if he were to accomplish his broader mission: teaching young people the skills needed for good-paying jobs in machining.
“As the show grew in popularity, I had the opportunity to meet more and more people and visit a lot of vocational schools,” he said. “That’s when a big alarm bell sounded for me. I saw that all these students were spending time and money on a one- or two-year program, but they weren’t making more than a few different parts, and the ones they do make are useless—aluminum smart phone cases and stuff like that. The schools just don’t have the financial resources for everyone to get the kind of hands on training needed to succeed.”
According to Gilroy, the curriculum itself is also flawed. Those responsible for its development are often trying to teach kids the same skills that they themselves learned decades earlier. And while machine tools today are much more complex than they were back then, the machining process is in some ways far easier to master. “Everyone’s making it more complicated than it actually is,” he said.
For example, modern CAM software eliminates virtually all the tedious mathematics that was once required for machine tool programming, explains Gilroy. Nor is there a need to spend months learning how to operate an engine lathe or knee mill when so many of the available jobs are for CNC equipment. Titan Gilroy took the old school way of teaching and flipped it on its head.
“I spent two years of my life and my life savings to build my own school, with my own curriculum,” he said. “Our students learn how to 3D model and program a part on the first day and are actually standing in front of a CNC machine on day two. They learn through repetition, machining hundreds of real-world parts from titanium and other challenging materials. It gives them a sense of confidence. When they complete our program, they have tangible skills to offer an employer.”
Simply put, the TITANS of CNC Academy is the equivalent of learning how to drive a car, but instead of hours spent behind a simulator and reading textbooks, students are placed immediately behind the wheel.
Gilroy said more than 35,000 students have enrolled across 170 countries and 2,000 facilities, all in just one year’s time. He also took his program to San Quentin prison to help inmates develop the skills necessary to re-enter society. It would seem that this one-time resident of Halawa Correctional Facility was facing the financial good times once again, except for one thing: the TITANS of CNC Academy is free.
“You know, we have the greatest country in the world, but nobody talks about manufacturing,” said Gilroy. “Because of that, our young people are reluctant to enter the trades. This is the problem that nobody's been able to fix. My goal is to bring as many of them as possible into this amazing career that has given me so much. That’s what’s most important to me now.”