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LA QUINTA, CALIF. — Mold makers are painfully aware of how difficult it can be to attract young talent into their profession. A couple of low-cost options for spreading the word surfaced during the recent meeting of SPI's Molders and Moldmakers divisions.

Roger Klouda, president of MSI Mold Builders Inc. in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, told the group about how last fall he added the following sentence to a help-wanted ad he placed in Cedar Rapids' The Gazette for mold makers, mold designers and computer numerically controlled machine operators: ``If you are interested in these jobs but feel you are not qualified and would like more information on receiving training, call ...'' The number was for local Kirkwood Community College, which offers vocational technical courses in machining.

The ad indicated MSI's top hourly pay rates for different skill levels, with some listed at about $25 per hour.

``The professor there couldn't teach class for two days because the phone was ringing off the hook,'' Klouda said.

He said the first ad spurred close to 200 calls. Of those, about 20 respondents remained serious after learning about the commitment required to pursue the training, and 12-15 actually took the next machining course.

To avoid further disruption from flooded switchboards at the college, Klouda said that from now on, the telephone number given will be for local economic development personnel, who are aware of MSI's apprenticeship program and who will be given notice that the ad is to appear.

Apparently, publishing pay rates for toolmakers in help-wanted ads is not as common a practice in Milwaukee.

Andy Lehner, president of Omega Tool Inc. of Menomonee Falls, Wis., told how he and other members of the Tool & Die Association of Milwaukee were angered when Harley-Davidson Motor Co. ran an oversize advertisement in the March 9 edition of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that did just that.

The Milwaukee-based motorcycle maker's classified ad covered the bottom two-thirds of an entire page, and was unusual not only for its size but for the fact that it also included a clip-out job application form. The ad quoted a starting rate of $23.64 an hour for toolmakers who had completed a state-indentured apprenticeship and who met certain other requirements.

``We wrote a letter [to Harley] to complain about it,'' Lehner said in an interview in La Quinta, explaining that he and fellow mold makers felt that publishing pay rates violated an unwritten rule, since such information could stir discontent at area mold shops. ``I can't remember it ever being done,'' he said and, even though Harley was not offering any more money than Omega, ``the precedent was upsetting.''

But Harley's action triggered a result Lehner did not expect.

``I called my shop and talked to my partner,'' he said. ``One of the [local vocational] schools called and said [the ad] was one of the best things that could have happened.''

The ad, it seems, triggered numerous calls to the school from individuals interested in learning more about what it takes to qualify for such jobs.

That prompted Lehner, the newly elected chairman of the SPI Moldmakers Division, to reassess his own reaction and conclude, flatly, ``I was wrong.''