Both Ameritech and Pfaff are part of Apprenticeship 2000, a group of five companies and a community college in the Charlotte area that work together to recruit apprentices and manage the program.
The program, which is modeled on German-style industrial training, was the first such effort in North Carolina, and Ameritech was one of the founding members, joining in 1996.
Some of the appeal for the two mold making companies may reflect the situation for manufacturers in Charlotte, a region without a strong history of tool manufacturing and the supply of potential employees that a state like Michigan would have.
Except for Pfaff and Ameritech, the other members of Apprenticeship 2000 are not in plastics. Rotman said that's an advantage because it reduces concerns about losing apprentices to competitors.
Perhaps a more important positive, though, is the partnership with other larger manufacturers, Rotman said.
Teaming up with other companies creates a larger pool of jobs and makes the program more attractive to students and parents trying to figure out if it is indeed a good opportunity.
"When you went into a high school [as Ameritech] and said, 'I've got one job opening for one student,' it was very hard to get the attention of the right people," he said. "When we joined Apprenticeship 2000, we became a group of manufacturers that had 20 positions available.
"We didn't sell Ameritech Die and Mold, we sold Apprenticeship 2000," he said. "A small company like us suddenly became a big company in the eyes of education and the schools and even parents."
Rex Brown, a 23-year-old graduate of the apprentice program who today is a machinist at Pfaff, said his family was initially skeptical of the program when he was in high school.
"They were concerned that it was a scam," he said. "They thought I wouldn't be getting a degree and they thought it was a cheap way for the company to get labor."
But Brown said he's happy he went through the program, which paid for his associate degree while he worked, and his parents now see its value. Starting salaries for Apprenticeship 2000 graduates are at least $36,000 a year, according to the program's website.
In high school, he had thought about training to be a barber but felt that would be "selling myself short."
Today he gets a lot of questions about his work.
"When I tell people what I do and my journey, they say 'How do I do that, or [how does] my son or daughter?'" Brown said. "There's never been someone not interested in it.
"They jump on me, some people they add me on Facebook and they bombard me with questions," Brown said.
Interest in these programs seems to be growing.
North Carolina now has 11 apprenticeship programs statewide across a variety of industries, with nine of them starting in the last few years, according to Pamela Howze, executive director of work-based learning, business and veterans' services for the North Carolina Department of Commerce.
There's more interest in Washington, too. Ameritech hosted then-U.S. Labor Secretary Thomas Perez for a June 2015 tour, with news reports from the visit quoting Perez saying the federal government wanted to double the number of registered apprenticeships in the United States.
Germany's model of industrial apprenticeships also got high-profile treatment during a March 17 meeting between President Donald Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Trump led off his comments at a joint news conference by saying that Germany has done an "incredible job" training its industrial workforce.
The praise of Germany's apprenticeship system makes sense to DeVlieger: "Germany has done a really good job of maintaining that system."
He believes Pfaff's own apprentice programs, in both Germany and the United States, help it keep a global level of quality. Most of its molds are sold in the automotive industry, throughout Europe, North America and China, where the company set up a sales and service office last year near Shanghai.
"What the apprenticeship program really does is provide that base, that continuous growth of knowledge to hand down," he said.
Read more about North Carolina's program:
North Carolina plastics firms look to apprenticeships
Apprentice motivation: Free college and a job