Sparks fly as Gary Oppermann, left, second-shift lead journeyman, and apprentice Nathan Munroe work at a grinder.
Sparks fly as Gary Oppermann, left, second-shift lead journeyman, and apprentice Nathan Munroe work at a grinder.

   It’s a refrain heard increasingly often: skilled trade positions can pay as much, or more, than jobs that require a college degree while providing a fulfilling life.

   But finding individuals to fill those positions can be difficult.

   Alliance Laundry Systems, facing a crew of tool-and-die makers who soon could retire out of the business, has identified a novel way to fill that ability gap: a massive tool-and-die-making apprenticeship program.

   This fall, the first two of those apprentices is graduating to the level of journeyman.

   He’ll be just the first of 10 currently in the program who could help bolster the ranks at Alliance in a field with few young tradespeople.

   Tool-and-die makers repair dies, molds, jigs and fixtures for companies such as Alliance, who use them for stamping metal.

   “These guys here are what keeps the assembly lines and press shops going,” said Curt Martinez, senior stamping engineer for Alliance Laundry Systems in Ripon. “If they have a smash up of a die, our crew goes in and we get that die going in a very short amount of time. Because when you don’t, you lose a lot of time [and money].”

   They’re a vital part of a company such as Alliance, and yet they’re in short supply.

   That’s where the new apprenticeship program comes in.

Read the full story in the Nov. 8, 2018 edition of the Ripon Commonwealth Press.