Apprenticeship program aims to renew manufacturing workforce

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Rockford, Ill (WIFR) -- Dial Machine has been producing high precision metal parts for over 50 years, but another high quality product they are producing is apprentices.

More than 140 apprentices are currently in the Rock River Valley Tooling and Machining Association's apprenticeship program across 36 manufacturing companies, dozens of which are at Dial Machine. All of whom are working toward their journeyman credentials to become certified machinists.

Brian Runkle, an apprentice at Dial Machine, graduates from the program on Tuesday and was named star apprentice for his dedication and hard work during his time in the program.

"Never turn down a chance to learn more, ever,” said Runkle. “It's one of the best things to do to further yourself, to better yourself."

To earn the credentials needed for the certification, apprentices complete 10,000 hours of hands-on learning, in addition to taking 10 courses in the classroom over a period of four years.

"It was four years, four long years, but it's done and I'm happy,” said Runkle. “I can look back and say I've done something good."

Runkle had 10 years of industry experience before joining the program, but jumped at the chance to add depth to his knowledge after being approached by Dial Machine Vice President Eric Anderberg.

"If you have a desire, you have some aptitude and you want to learn, this is a good career,” said Anderberg. “He [Runkle] earned star apprentice himself. He had perfect attendance all four years, great grades.”

Apprentices start day one with a job, and wages increase as they become more proficient. It’s on the job learning and education.
"It's an enhancement for them,” said Anderberg. “They're gaining knowledge they wouldn't have gotten otherwise and they grow. It helps them on a better path in this industry for a better career."

And that is why Runkle says he wanted to complete the apprenticeship.

"It's never a bad idea, especially in this industry, to know as much as you possibly can,” said Runkle.

“Whether it be this job or any job, the more you understand, the more you know, the better off you're going to be. You got to love what you're doing and this just makes it that much better."