Companies join to give apprentice machinists a chance to learn


Here was the problem in a nutshell: Baltimore's Micro Machining Inc. had job applicants but not enough different types of work to offer a four-year apprentice program.

The solution: Get together with a few competitors, add some state and federal funding and share a pool of apprentices.

Micro Machining, a $3 million precision-tool manufacturer with 43 employees, and 10 of its counterparts formed a corporation called MECHTECH, which came up with $20,000 in matching funds from the state Department of Economic and Employment Development and $100,000 from the U.S. Department of Labor. The new corporation hired apprentices and on Oct. 1 began subcontracting them out to member companies.

Three apprentices have signed up and are working with three of the MECHTECH companies, said Micro Machining President Alexander Doyle, who helped create the partnership.

After four years of rotating through those companies, the apprentices will have "graduated" with the experience required to be professional machinists, as well as a degree from Catonsville Community College.

The state of Maryland and the Greater Baltimore Committee made it clear yesterday that they want to see more programs like MECHTECH. The business group and the Department of Economic and Employment Development announced that they will create a partnership to analyze the broad job-training, education and development needs of businesses such as Micro Machining.

GBC Executive Director Robert Keller said the two organizations "will identify one or two target industries and work together to develop . . . a regional industry-specific training strategy."

The effort will begin in January, with either manufacturing and machining, or the health and medical industries, Mr. Keller said.

GBC's involvement means that businesses, which had "dropped out" of such efforts for a while, are "getting back in again," said Gov. William Donald Schaefer, who was on hand for the announcement yesterday.

J. Randall Evans, secretary of economic and employment development, said the partnership with GBC probably won't require any state funds but rather a "reallocation of resources." That could mean, for example, getting public schools and colleges to respond to the job-training needs the partnership finds, he said.

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