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Ridge Tool Company launches apprenticeship program with Lorain Community College

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Posted at 9:59 AM, Nov 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-16 15:49:04-05

ELYRIA, Ohio — Help Wanted Ohio is working to get to the bottom of our employment issues. For months, there has been a rising demand to fill a growing number of manufacturing jobs in the Buckeye state.

Now, the Ridge Tool Company, makers of RIDGID Tools, is teaming up with Lorain Community College to help fill the skills gap with a new apprenticeship program.

“It's a very robust and challenging apprenticeship program, but the group is learning both sets of the trades, electrical and mechanical, and it's something very worthwhile here and building in their future,” said HR manager Michelle Reisinger.

Ridge has been making and distributing products under the RIDGID brand name since 1923. It’s one of the many programs nationwide that’s facing a shortage of skilled labor and an aging workforce.

The program has drawn the attention of people like Jim Ward, a 41-year-old father of three from Lorain County. Ward started off as an entry-level worker at the company building wrenches 14 years ago but noticed how the company was updating its technology.

“We went from hand loading mills to having machines operated and loaded by robots,” Ward said. “Once the apprenticeship came up, I saw a good opportunity and took it. I took the placement test and did well enough.”

After enrolling in the program through LCC, Ward receives paid training on the job during the day and then takes classes at night to broaden his manufacturing skills.

“I'm getting an experience intellectual background in mechanical, welding, plumbing and anything we can learn,” he said. “The pay raise is nice, and now my kids see me going to school and they're interested in what I do. I just hope to continue learning and learn new things as they come in the door and being able to train people that on things that I've already seen and learned and kind of pass the knowledge on.”

Apprentices complete 10,000 on-the-job hours and 1,000 contact hours at LCC, which can be applied to an associate degree program. The cost of tuition and supplies is paid for by Ridge Tool. The company also provides scholarships, tools and continuing education with several national organizations.

“We have different paths, whether it's through our tuition reimbursement program. We're also trying to build up skill sets, maybe for somebody who wants to move into engineering general business skills if they want to move into management I.T.,” said Reisinger. “There's definitely a need and we are hiring. We have multiple openings and we're looking for people that want to learn and want to invest in their future.”

Many of the company’s employees hold their jobs until retirement. Ward says despite the juggling act between a full-time workload and class schedule, it’s worth it.

“Every day is a challenge. Every day is a new learning opportunity. It just it's nice being challenged every day and always on your toes,” Ward said. “It's a lot of hours, but it's it's a good work.”

Click here for more information on the program.

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