A.E. Cole Co. in Columbus, Ohio, has found that Department of Labor apprenticeship programs are benefiting the firm. The production mold manufacturer for injection molding was approached by the government in 1968 to take part in the program. It involves working with vocational schools and offering free continuing education programs for its current employees.
``There was a big push to start the program in 1968,'' said Presi-dent Ron Cole. ``But it hasn't been until the last five or so years that it's started to work well for us.''
Cole credits the improvement with ``more young people wanting to learn the trade.'' Though A.E. Cole has worked with others, it mainly works with Licking Valley Joint Vocational School.
While they learn, students remain on A.E. Cole's payroll. Once training is complete, most stay. In the last eight years, A.E. Cole has hired 10 such students.
``We wondered what we would do when our old-timer mold makers retired. Our industry skipped a generation of workers, it seems, so we were forced to turn to the trade and vocational schools for young mold makers. It was one of the best decisions we ever made. Now two-thirds of our shop personnel are graduates of these programs,'' Cole said.
Most of A.E. Cole's mold makers are under 30, an average reached after the oldest mold maker with the company retired after more than 40 years.
``Ten to 20 years ago, [this industry] was just something to do,'' Cole said. ``Now there has been a wage increase and the technology has changed. ... Technology has been the greatest feature to grow without having to expand the walls.''
Founded in 1940, A.E. Cole's first products were bomb sights for World War II military planes. It now works with the latest grades of mold steels to make molds for automotive, medical, housewares, appliance, sporting goods and toy parts. It employs 20.