Titan Gilroy believes Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machining is the pinnacle of manufacturing. He also sees it as a path to curing a few of society’s big ills – criminal recidivism, skilled craft training, and the bringing the new generations into manufacturing, to name just a few.

But he believes that first we’ll have to overcome or work past one big hurdle: “We have people setting the manufacturing rules for our country who don’t actually understand the latest technology, let alone how to make a CNC machined part,” he said. “We need more people who get dirty and understand how to make things.”

Gilroy is a splashy presence in the normally subdued world of manufacturing. He’s an ex-con himself, having served three years of a sixteen year prison sentence for assault before being released for good behavior. It was a life-changing event, particularly one incident in prison lockdown when his cellmate stopped talking to him and eventually committed suicide. Once released, Titan walked into a CNC machine shop and landed a job for $9 per hour, finding his calling as a CNC machinist. He’s now the owner of his own shop, TITANS of CNC, Inc., in Rocklin, California, that serves some of the biggest and best-known customers for high-end machined components: Space-X, Aerojet, and Blue Origin, for example. Oh, and he’s also a reality TV star – his show “TITANS of CNC” is carried on MAVTV.

He’s an outspoken contrarian with respect to some of the popular beliefs in the broader world of industry. With respect to the much-bemoaned manufacturing skills gap, Gilroy had this to say: “The skills gap is a lie. It is simply a symptom of what the true problem is. We have an awareness gap, and a training gap. The problem is that our training is prehistoric. So to me, if you call it a skills gap, it’s similar to saying there is starvation in Africa, which is only a symptom of the real problem. We need to stop focusing on the symptom, so we can find a solution to the real problem.”

He has his own ideas about that too. “We need to meet kids where they’re at and teach them what they need. We’re creating our own skills gap,” he says. If kids are bored and lazy, Gilroy said, it’s because our current training methods and curriculum make them bored and lazy. He has two recommendations. “First, we need to keep up with current technology. And second, we have to make it exciting for students and parents both.”

When it comes to technical education in particular, Gilroy sees some big problems. “There’s a huge amount of money going into schools right now, but there are no high-level standards and they don’t buy the right tools,” he said. “The problem is that there’s no national curriculum. Schools go out and get machines, then they create a curriculum – but then it doesn’t get updated and it’s quickly outdated.”

He’s putting his money where his mouth is. His TITANS of CNC: Academy offers computer-based remote video training for 3D Computer-Aided Design (CAD), Computer-Aided Manufacturing (CAM) and CNC machining. “My system is backwards, because I teach design and then CNC programming,” he said. And he believes in teaching everyone to program the machines. “There should be no ‘just set-up’ guys.” His online training starts with basics such as mill and lathe fundamentals, and moves up through a full teaching series including making a chess set, learning 5 axis machining, and producing aerospace connections in his new advanced B.B. Aero series.

He believes in getting students into challenging projects quickly. “Through the Academy, we’re giving people a look at simplicity and a look at complexity,” he said. “My system is about making part after part. My philosophy is to make aerospace easy – then automotive or medical or anything else is easy too.”

He’s not just focused on youth training. It’s through both his TV show and his academy that he’s connecting back with the world of convicts he used to know and be part of. “Building my TITANS of CNC school in San Quentin was an amazing experience – it led us to building our curriculum,” he said, referring to his work with the California State Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to train inmates in CNC programming and operation.

TITANS of CNC: Academy is a free course that, in less than two years up and running, has 50,000 online students and 3,500 registered schools. It serves 170 countries.

Gilroy sees this all as critical, not just to manufacturing, but to America. “You can call China a cheater or a manipulator, but one thing they understand is the importance of manufacturing to building a country. It’s one reason they went from a GNP of $200 billion in 1978 to $11 trillion currently,” he said. “If we want to compete with other countries, we have to raise the bar.”

This article was written by Jim Vinoski for Forbes.