Breaking Barriers in Tool & Die



By
Kristin J
25 September 20
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Danielle Cutler completes Apprenticeship and state Journeyperson Certification

“There is no reason why women cannot excel in the tool and die profession.” Kristin Jenkins, Executive VP – Director of Sales & Diversity for UMP, sees the path for women as a certainty. “Just about everything you touch – steel, plastic and glass – requires a die, which leads back to a Tool & Die Maker. Danielle is our first female to have gone through our apprenticeship program, and we hope to have others follow her lead.”

Danielle’s UMP Story

Danielle Cutler is the first woman in UMP history to complete the Tool and Die Apprenticeship and receive her state-approved Journeyperson Certification. Danielle began her career at Universal Metal Products in January of 2014 as a Punch Press Operator and was accepted into UMP’s Tool & Die Apprenticeship program in 2016. 

She recalls, “In my interview the apprenticeship program was mentioned. That if I work hard and prove my worth with UMP, I could get in. I knew that’s what I wanted and where I wanted to go from that moment. I actually took a pay cut when hired, but the chance to make something of myself made me take the leap.”

The apprenticeship is a state-certified program where students have four years to develop the skills and education needed to become a Journeyperson in the tool & die trade.  Apprentices log hours and take courses at a local college. Once an apprentice reaches 500 hours of in-classroom instruction and 8,000 hours of on-the-job training, the sponsor (employer) of the apprentice can file for certification from the state.  

Danielle was a good candidate for the apprenticeship because she had a strong mechanical aptitude and a willingness/desire to learn.

“There was nothing that was going to stop me from achieving that goal,” says Danielle. “My children, Al and Cash, and being able to provide for them was my only objective.” Her eldest son, Al, took on helping with his younger brother, cooking meals on school nights, helping with homework, getting up for school and more, all so she could work the hours needed to complete this rigorous and lengthy program. “He knew helping me would mean a better life for them and I can’t thank him enough for stepping up. No matter how tiring or frustrating this journey became, they both were always there to keep me motivated.”

UMP’s Commitment for the Future

The career path begins with the apprenticeship, however, the skills and troubleshooting are developed over the span of the career.

Gordon Daugherty, UMP President states that he is “very proud Danielle is our first home grown female tool and die maker with a long career ahead at Universal Metal Products. I am certain she will continue to be a great example and advocate for women in manufacturing.” For the next class of apprentices, Gordon hopes UMP will see more female candidates inspired by Danielle’s accomplishment.

According to the US census.gov microdata on reported Tool and Die employees, this would put Danielle and her female journeyperson counterparts in some elite company with women making up just 3.3% nationally and 2.6% regionally in Ohio of the total skilled tool and die workforce. In August, the State of Ohio reported that 10.4% of the current active apprentices are in fact women, which is an indicator that more women are jumping on the bandwagon.  

UMP has partnered with local schools and vocational tech schools to provide these opportunities. “We have put the word out that we are looking for self-motivated, hard- working people to enter our tool & die apprenticeship program,” states Kristin Jenkins. “Our program is open to all that are interested, qualified and committed.”

There is a maintenance apprenticeship program UMP is just launching. UMP also has their own internal setup / operator program in both slide and punch press forming. Several women have progressed through this program over the years.

For those who enter now, the future is bright.

The need for skilled tradespeople isn’t going away, but the interest in skilled trades has diminished in the last decade. For those who do go into a skilled trades career, the opportunities for stability and advancement are there for the taking.

“I’ve known many in the trade who have moved into managerial/technical sales roles,” says Christina Balint, UMP’s Corporate HR Manager. “Others have had an entrepreneurial spirit and have established their own tool & die shops. Of course, there are those who are completely happy advancing their skills within the business who sponsored their apprenticeship.”

Paving the Way for Women

When asked what it means to be UMP’s first woman to complete the Apprenticeship and Certification, Danielle answers, “I hope that it has shown that there are women out there capable of succeeding in this field, that we can be given a chance just like the men who walk through the door. I was hired in with a chance to work my way up and prove that I can be of value to the tool room. I was not handed an opportunity, but a chance. 

My experience was a lot different from the male apprentices and I hope I have paved a way that shows women are capable too.”

Danielle has a deep appreciation for the experience and the treatment she received on this journey. “I’d like to especially thank Rodney Reynolds, Russel Craig, Will Griffe, Rick Hansel, and Ilia Bridviski, along with the other tool makers, for their words of wisdom, guidance, and knowledge they passed onto me through this apprenticeship and as I continue in my career. I appreciate all of them as they treated me as a fellow co-worker and not just the ‘girl apprentice’.”

Women will be a big piece in the solution to fill the shortage of skilled tradespeople for the future, and UMP is committed to making that happen.