Earn while you learn

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Four Greenville Tool & Die employees share a common link – they are building successful careers with the help of their employer’s apprenticeship program and Montcalm Community College.



Devin Cunningham, Kevin Lipp, Andrew Selleck and Justin Stump all were hired at GTD through a high school co-op program. Lipp and Selleck have completed their apprenticeship training while Cunningham and Stump are in the process.

Selleck says during high school he developed an interest in design. When he joined GTD in 2003, he realized company leaders had not just hired him to fill a job – instead, they were making an investment in his future.

“In the long run, companies end up with good, valuable employees who tend to stay with them for a long time.”

Soon after he began working at GTD, Selleck entered the apprenticeship program at MCC. Through the program, he learned a variety of skills while working his way up in the company, from machinist to die assembly, and eventually into the design department.

After 10 years, the 28-year-old Orleans resident says he is proud of the work he does designing dies to be used to manufacture components for the production of automobiles, appliances and other items.

“It’s fun to see a car on the road and be able to pinpoint their parts produced from tooling we have designed and built,” he says.

In addition, Selleck says that earning his journeyman’s card in tool and die design through the apprenticeship program helped him learn the well-rounded skills he needs as a designer.

“You need to be able to understand what you’re working on and what you want to accomplish,” he says. “You have to be able to understand what you see on the computer, what you want the die to look like and how the die will perform during the manufacturing process when you first start working on it.”Greenville Tool & Die employees, from left, Kevin Lipp and Andrew Selleck have both completed apprenticeship training at  Montcalm Community College, while Justin Stump and Devin Cunningham are currently in the program. Greenville Tool & Die employees, from left, Kevin Lipp and Andrew Selleck have both completed apprenticeship training at Montcalm Community College, while Justin Stump and Devin Cunningham are currently in the program.

Apprenticeship training builds a skilled workforce, increases earnings



An apprenticeship combines on-the-job training and related classroom instruction. Workers learn the practical and theoretical aspects of a highly skilled occupation while they are employed.

Apprenticeships can be found in all industries from traditional sectors such as manufacturing and construction to emerging sectors such as health care and energy. More than 1,100 occupations are approved for apprenticeships through the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Apprenticeship. Visit www.doleta.gov/OA/occupations.cfm to view a complete list.

Individuals who complete a Registered Apprenticeship program earn substantially higher wages over their lifetime according to a study by the U.S. Department of Labor.  The study found that during a career of 36 years, participants who completed the Registered Apprenticeship program had average earnings gains of nearly $250,000 compared to nonparticipants

MCC is partnering for the future

Once a training agreement is established, MCC coordinates the training plan and provides related instruction. Each semester usually includes one to three courses of apprenticeship-related instruction. A Job Training Certificate in Apprenticeship offers several benefits to students including a broad skill level of a given occupation, on-the-job training, and related classroom instruction that will help prepare students to be superior in a given occupation.

MCC Vice President for Student and Academic Affairs Rob Spohr says businesses often struggle to hire skilled workers. Many have turned to hiring people who are a good fit for their company and then investing in their education.

“It costs them a lot of money in hiring and training, but it’s definitely a good investment on the part of the business,” Spohr says. “They pay for the classes, and they often let them out of work to attend class. This makes good economic sense. As the company invests in their employees, they are more willing to work harder and to get the job done because they know the company invested in them and they’re willing to invest back in the company. In the long run, companies end up with good, valuable employees who tend to stay with them for a long time.



“That’s where MCC comes in,” Spohr says. “Business and industry leaders have figured out that they need to grow their own workers. We meet with them to find out what they’re doing and what their training needs are, and we are able to tailor our coursework and programs to address those needs.”

Susan Hatto, MCC’s Dean of Community & Workforce Development, cultivates workforce training relationships with area businesses and organizations.

“Businesses are very aware of their responsibility when it comes to their long-term supply of adequately trained workers,” Hatto says. “When providing apprenticeship training, they realize that they are investing in their company’s future.

“Our workforce partners consistently tell us that they hire employees who are the right fit for their business environment and are willing to invest the time and expense of training them through our apprenticeship program to ensure they learn the skills they need to be successful as an employee with their company,” she adds.

GTD Human Resources Director Steve Foster says the company often relies on co-op placement — a structured method of combining classroom-based education with practical work experience that helps people make the school-to-work transition — to attract new employees and then invests in their education through its apprenticeship partnership with MCC.

“The old adage of an apprenticeship is you earn while you learn,” Foster says. “Our particular apprentice programs include tool and die maker, tool and die designer and CNC machinist. All of those programs require a related instruction program in combination with more than 8,000 hours of on-the-job training here. The related instruction requires a minimum of 576 class hours. MCC has been our educational partner since the college was established in the mid-1960s.”

Foster says GTD is pleased with the success of its training partnership with MCC.

“The reason that we stick with the apprenticeship program and endorse it so much is because it has worked so well for us for so many years”

“A lot of manufacturers who don’t have programs like ours want to hire people who can hit the ground running, who are already trained by somebody else. They’re having problems finding these people,” he says. “We try to find people who we think have the qualities and the work ethic to succeed in this trade and we are willing to put the investment into them to train them through our apprentice programs.



“When we look for people, we’re trying to find people who want this to be their career. It’s not just a job while you’re waiting for something better to come along.

“The reason that we stick with the apprenticeship program and endorse it so much is because it has worked so well for us for so many years,” Foster adds.

Foster says apprenticeship training is beneficial to both the company and to its employees.

“It’s an opportunity for our employees to get strong support for their education,” he says.

GTD employees agree.

“Some kids have a lot of potential to do something with their lives, but they simply can’t afford to go to college,” Cunningham says. “This is a great option. They pay for our schooling. Basically all we pay for is transportation and books and some supplies.

“We’re right out of high school making pretty good money, on top of basically having a full ride for college,” adds the 18-year-old from Ionia.

Stump, 18, of Greenville, says in addition to paying for his education, he appreciates GTD’s commitment to helping him be successful in his studies.

“They are really supportive of our class schedule and are flexible with hours to allow us time to go to class,” he says. “We are encouraged to make up time we miss, but we aren’t required to.”

Lipp, who earned his journeyman’s card as a tool and die maker, joined GTD seven years ago and says the company consistently supports its employees.

“They help us and we help them,” he says. “They help us get the education we need to be more accurate and efficient and we put out a better product in the end.”

Contact us

To learn more about MCC’s apprenticeship training program visit www.montcalm.edu/programs/apprenticeship-training or call 989-328-2111.

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