Sponsored By

At the same time that we hear a lot about U.S. manufacturers reshoring their production, we are also being reminded that there is a skilled worker shortage. "We know that our investments in automation and high-tech machine tools provide some relief from this problem, but we also know that the people at Industrial Molds are our most valuable asset," said Tim Peterson, VP of Industrial Molds Group in Rockford, IL.

Clare Goldsberry

December 22, 2014

5 Min Read
Apprentices recognized by 2014 Mold Your Career awards

At the same time that we hear a lot about U.S. manufacturers reshoring their production, we are also being reminded that there is a skilled worker shortage. "We know that our investments in automation and high-tech machine tools provide some relief from this problem, but we also know that the people at Industrial Molds are our most valuable asset," said Tim Peterson, VP of Industrial Molds Group in Rockford, IL.

"The many years of experience of our long-time journeyman moldmakers, mold designers and programmers provide Industrial Molds with our competitive edge, and without them we couldn't be who we are," Peterson added. "That's why apprenticeship programs are critical. We need young people to come into the industry to be mentored by our long time employees, to teach and train them in the critical aspects of mold manufacturing."

Recently, the Chicago Chapter of the American Mold Builders Association (AMBA) presented their 2014 Mold Your Career award to Carlos Santillan, a finishing machinist for Craftsman Tool & Mold in Aurora, IL. Carlos received a $1,000 gift certificate to DGI Supply courtesy of DGI, a machine shop supplier of tools that moldmakers and machinists use such as micrometers and tool boxes, and Schmolz + Bichenbach, a local supplier of steel.

GK6A2282-AMBA-0071.jpeg

Carlos Santillan accepts the award for the AMBA Chicago Chapter's 2014 Mold Your Career Award. (Photo courtesy of Creative Technology Corp.) 

Tim Roth, shop supervisor for Craftsman, has worked for the past five years on the Manufacturing Education Curriculum committee for the Technology & Manufacturing Association (TMA) in the Chicago area. "Through the TMA program, we are really reviving the apprenticeships," Roth explained to PlasticsToday. "Currently, we have nine instructors and 149 students in the program. We have hands on training as well as academic classes. Everyone complains about not having skilled employees, but there are people out there that are looking for a job."

"Carlos came to us as a bright, hard-working individual with no skills in the trade. Between working here and the TMA apprentice program, he's become an outstanding employee and machinist. I nominated him for the AMBA Mold Your Career Award, and thanks to the wisdom of the Chicago Chapter leadership, Carlos won."

Carlos Santillan has been with Craftsman for three and a half years. Prior to coming to Craftsman, he was a maintenance person for a private school. But he was looking for something better - something that would give him a true career path. "I heard about the job opening here at Craftsman, and I knew it was something that would get me further along in a career. This trade opens up more doors for me than being in maintenance."

Santillan said the best thing about working at Craftsman is the people. "Without them, I couldn't have learned everything I've learned," he said. "I appreciate their patience with my questions, and they are always willing to answer them." Carlos will use the $1,000 gift certificate to supply his toolbox with the many tools he needs for his job.

Roth added that the apprenticeship program has been a huge benefit to Craftsman. "The only way we could increase our capacity was to find good people and matching them up with the jobs we needed to fill," Roth said. "I doubled the size of my second shift through this program. So far we've had nine employees go through the TMA program."

Craftsman selects candidates for its apprenticeship based on both the hard skills such as math through an entrance test, and the soft skills. "We've learned that we all spend a lot of time at the shop together, so it's important to get the right people," Roth explained. "The hard skills can be taught like learning the math and working with the machines, but we found that it's valuable to also look for the best personality - those personal skills of being pleasant people to work with. We try to surround ourselves with like-minded people. It reduces conflict. Since Craftsman as a company invests in the extra training at the academic level to complement what we're doing at the shop, the apprentices get more in-depth knowledge to make them a well-rounded employee."

Industrial Molds also has an apprenticeship program that benefits the company long-term. "Our apprenticeship program is something we really believe in," Peterson said. "Training is absolutely critical to the future success of Industrial Molds and we're very focused on it. We're always looking to find new people for the program and new ways to train them. We're finding that what worked 10 years ago isn't necessarily going to work tomorrow."

Two of Industrial Molds' apprentices were runners-up in the 2014 Mold Your Career Apprenticeship Award. Justin Carlson and Zach Hillers each received a $40 Starbucks gift certificate. Justin Carlson explained that he didn't know what a plastic injection mold was or what it even looked like before he became an apprentice. Today, he's excited about his career prospects as he continues to work and learn the industry from bottom to top.

"I would say the best thing about being an apprentice is having the opportunity to work in each of the departments," he says. "There are so many benefits in having exposure to all of the steps and processes it takes to build a mold. I've developed an appreciation for every role in each area, as everyone plays an important part in the development and completion of each tool."

Justin, who is currently working in High-speed Machining Programming, adds that he also enjoys the "challenge, complexity of the parts" that Industrial Molds manufactures, as well as the "problem-solving opportunities" that arise each day. "But probably what I like the most is being able to learn and work with very experienced craftsmen," he says. "The average age of workers in this industry is pretty top heavy, but that's a benefit for me and other apprentices, as we are able to learn from the years of experience from master toolmakers. Basically there's unlimited knowledge to tap into here at Industrial Molds, and many opportunities to learn different tricks of the trade."

About the Author(s)

Clare Goldsberry

Until she retired in September 2021, Clare Goldsberry reported on the plastics industry for more than 30 years. In addition to the 10,000+ articles she has written, by her own estimation, she is the author of several books, including The Business of Injection Molding: How to succeed as a custom molder and Purchasing Injection Molds: A buyers guide. Goldsberry is a member of the Plastics Pioneers Association. She reflected on her long career in "Time to Say Good-Bye."

Sign up for the PlasticsToday NewsFeed newsletter.

You May Also Like