Ohio manufacturer partners with Apprenticeship Works

Linn YostBusiness owner Linn Yost is cautious about taking on more work than his small staff can handle, so he never advertises, not even with a sign on the Micro Machine Works building in Barlow, Ohio.

Like most manufacturers, Yost struggles to find skilled machinists, which can hinder his production capabilities. That’s why he partnered with Apprenticeship Works at the Robert C. Byrd Institute (RCBI).

A native of Barlow, Yost once owned his own company, Strata Vision, which made down-hole cameras used in oil and gas exploration. After selling his company, he took a few years off, and then in 1993, he and a partner opened a small machine shop in his hometown with just one CNC (computer-numerical control) machine.

Now Micro Machine Works has 14 CNC machines: eight mills, four lathes, one grinder and one router and a few other non-CNC machines. The company’s 12 employees produce parts for numerous companies in the region, such as Quidel, Ametek and Terra Sonic, and for customers across the country, including NASA. They find his company through a broker and through word-of-mouth. Micro Machine Works has many repeat customers.

“It comes from always turning out good work,” he said. “And training is No. 1 for us.”

Since the beginning, Yost has focused much of his attention on hiring and training. In the past, he could find people with some machining experience. Over the years, however, local schools scaled back their machining programs. Without a regular stream of experienced machinists to choose from, he now looks for applicants with mechanical aptitude, a good attitude and an interest in making things.

With less machining experience, these employees, however, require more on-the-job training to acquire the knowledge and particular skills they need.

In 2017, Yost decided he needed a more effective training option, and he found it with Apprenticeship Works, the National Advanced Manufacturing Apprenticeship Partnership at RCBI. Partially supported by an American Apprenticeship Initiative grant from the U.S. Department of Labor, Apprenticeship Works now partners with companies in 18 states. The RCBI initiative also offers pre-apprenticeship programs for women, disadvantaged youth and transitioning military personnel.

After signing on with Apprenticeship Works, the AW team helped Yost implement an apprenticeship model customized to meet the needs of Micro Machine Works. The manufacturer also received access to Tooling U-SME, an Apprenticeship Works partner that provides assessments, online training modules and a learning management system.

Apprenticeship Works also provided Micro Machine Works with on-site customized training including a train-the-trainer workshop to help supervisors become better mentors.

The company started with one CNC apprentice and now has four. Yost expects another apprentice to register for the program in the near future.

The apprentices are mastering new skills through on-the-job training and related instruction. They will complete their CNC apprenticeships in about three years, depending on how much experience they had when they began.

Micro Machine Works is an example of how a small company can benefit from a registered apprenticeship program, disproving a common misconception that apprenticeship is only for large companies.

RCBI’s apprenticeship model of training is working well for Micro Machine Works, and Yost recommends it to other manufacturers.

“Apprenticeship Works is terrific,” Yost said. “We are glad it’s available to us. It’s our only resource for employee training.”