Featured article by Working Solutions – March 2023
In case you missed Working Solutions recent newsletter you can read it here. In this edition they feature Advanced Tool Inc.
Sherry DePerno is the CEO of a small manufacturing company called Advanced Tool Inc. in Marcy, New York. She talks about her company’s experience with apprenticeship.
Advanced Tool Inc. is a custom cutting-tool manufacturer that uses complex geometries to engineer carbide end mills, form end mills, and micro end mills. These products
are used for Aerospace, Automotive, Medical, and Power Generation.
“Accuracy is critical, and mistakes are not an option”, says Sherry DePerno, President/CEO of Advanced Tool. Sherry goes on to explain, “for decades we tried to find ways to train our new employees better and quicker. Unfortunately, because our trade is so complex, it could take us up to two years before we would know if someone was going to work out as a CNC Tool & Cutter Grinder. If they didn’t make it, it was crushing to watch two years of time and energy walk out the door with that employee. After the 4th consecutive person in a short window that didn’t work out, we gave up on our growth plan and felt forced to downsize our business instead. As a business owner, I was scared. I truly feared it was going to be the end of our business. Due to limited capacity, we were forced to get more selective with who we did business with. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Getting more selective with customers made us much more profitable. However, this was not a permanent solution. Eventually we would have to close our doors if we couldn’t develop new employees in production”.
In 2016, The New York State Department of Labor started pushing the idea of apprenticeships. Sherry was familiar with the concept, through her father’s experiences. She initially resisted the idea thinking the program would just add more work to their plate while getting the same results as previous efforts.
“I was wrong”, said Sherry, “well not about the ‘more work’ part, it did add more work. However, the results have been amazing! We took what used to be a two-year process of knowing if someone could make it and shortened it down to as little as six months. How did we manage this?” Sherry sums it up stating, “By not doing the same thing hoping for different results. We flipped our method of training completely on its head. If we were going to do this, we were going to do it right. We started from scratch and looked at everything we were doing with fresh eyes. We even hired a college professor, who taught us how to teach (really teach) and develop curriculum. We quickly learned that our previous idea of teaching was not great teaching. Unfortunately, we taught the same way many manufacturers do, through job shadowing and the ‘watch me and learn’ method. This may be okay for simple repetitive tasks, but what we do is far from simple. More is required”.
Sherry proudly states, “We now have a full curriculum and course syllabus with both classroom and hands-on training. The training includes testing at each course level with competency metrics to ensure the trainer and apprentice are on the same page. The curriculum is continually expanding as we go and getting better and stronger. The bonus is that we’ve designed our program so we can hire someone with zero previous experience, and zero college education. We train 100% from the ground up. We gave up on finding skilled staff and decided to build them within instead. This program is appealing to anyone who enjoys working with their hands and likes to be challenged. As one employee put it, ‘we are artists’ blending complex cutting geometries to help solve manufacturing problems throughout the world”. Sherry goes on to explain the wide range of issues Advanced Tool Inc. products help resolve, “From knee implants to jet engines, to the security fasteners that hold the Declaration of Independence. Our program can give anyone a start in an exciting career with above average earning potential and benefits, and the added benefit of no college debt. Instead of acquiring debt to get an education, apprenticeships pay you to learn!”
“By sitting down and writing the four-year NYS Apprenticeship for our trade and taking the time to develop the curriculum and training we have set ourselves up for unlimited growth potential. A business owner understands organizational growth is limited by the ability to train, grow, and develop staff. When it comes to skilled trades, especially in manufacturing, it can truly be life or death of the organization.” Sherry exclaims. If you would like more information about Advanced Tool Inc. check out their web page here and their social media at LinkedIn or Facebook.
Because Advance Tool Inc. is a company with fewer than 50 employees and currently sponsoring apprentices in Advanced Manufacturing, they can utilize the NYCAN grant to reimburse On-the-job-training up to 50% of $25 an hour for 6 months training. Click here if you would like to know more about the NYCAN grant.