Faced with a shortage of skilled tool and die makers, an in-house, four year-tool and die apprentice training program was set up in 2015 by MANN+HUMMEL Purolator in Fayetteville, North Carolina. In partnership with the state apprenticeship agency and the local community college, graduates are certified tool and die journeymen upon completion.

Our mission is to get young people interested in being mechanics, electricians and engineers. The apprenticeship route provides them with an opportunity to gain qualifications, be well paid and not build up a mountain of debt during their studies. As the partnership coordinator, I work closely with the agencies and the on-site instructor (mentor) to ensure that all the program criteria and training qualifications are being met.

A total of seven apprentices are currently enrolled. I spoke with Ke’Monte Fisher, 24, now in his third year. Here are some thoughts on his experience thus far:

How did you hear about the apprenticeship scheme at MANN+HUMMEL?

I was working at MANN+HUMMEL on the production floor as a temp to earn money for college when I saw the flyer. I thought it was a great opportunity to improve my skills and learn a respected profession. Plus, the company would pay for my schooling and I would be on a higher salary level.

How difficult is it to balance college and work?

The first couple of years were difficult but rewarding. I was going to classes at the community college for four hours in the morning, then worked the second shift for eight hours. Spread over five days a week, it is a busy schedule. Plus, the weekends were full of writing assignments and home study. However, I’ve completed my schooling now, so this year is less stressful. There are a few more assignments and projects to complete, then I will get my journeyman’s card and be a qualified tool and die maker.

How much support do you get from your mentor?

My instructor at work, my mentor, is a great help. Having a combination of theory at college then practical, on-the-job training is a great way to learn. My mentor shows me how the things I have learned can be applied to actual production situations. For example, I am currently undertaking hands-on maintenance work and crafting parts for dies.

a trainee at the workbench

What is the best thing about the apprenticeship?

As I mentioned, I was originally working at MANN+HUMMEL to pay my way through college. I was studying to be a chemistry major. However, the prospect a massive debt for tuition and living costs after four years of college was a daunting one. Going down the trade route means I could work and earn while I study. It’s an easier and more comfortable way to go, as there is no added debt when I qualify.

What are your plans after you have finished your apprenticeship?

Qualified tool and die makers are in high demand. Although there is no pressure from MANN+HUMMEL to stay with them after my apprenticeship is complete, I would like to continue my career with them. It’s a great place to work and, as my colleagues leave and retire, I see some great opportunities to continue to succeed and develop with MANN+HUMMEL.