Faces of Manufacturing

Machining apprenticeship helps local woman advance her manufacturing career

It’s safe to say that manufacturing and the trades have been a part of Amelia Roberts’ life since she can remember. Growing up, her family demonstrated the importance of hard work.  

“My family is nothing but construction workers, truck drivers and welders, but I always wanted to be in manufacturing in some way,” Amelia said.

She’s married with a three-year-old and lives in Lisbon next to her parents who own a farm and run a trucking company. Being busy and working with her hands is familiar territory.

“I know hard work. I put everything into what I do. I’m used to fast-paced learning, and I still try to absorb everything I can,” she said.

“Brazing” career paths

During high school, Amelia enrolled at Columbiana County Career and Technical Center for welding. After graduation, she started working for Compco as a production welder and fabricator.

Compco acquired Quaker Manufacturing in Salem in 2017 – which is now CQL Manufacturing. That’s where Amelia has been working for the last five years.

She’s been successful with welding but wanted to switch things up and train to be a die maintenance technician (DMT). That led her to the registered apprenticeship program for machining and taking classes at CCCTC.

“Machining has everything I want to learn – like dealing with different types of metals and tools, working on presses, being able to diagnose issues and how to fix those issues,” Amelia said. “It’s a lot of repair work and running machines like the surface grinder, lathe, mill, hand tools and other conventional tools.”

Tool and die makers construct precision tools or metal forms, called dies, that are used to cut, shape and form metal and other materials. They produce devices that hold metal while it’s bored, stamped or drilled.

“If something breaks down, or there’s a problem with the steel, you’d have to fix it by using whatever the best process would be. It’s pretty much like a mechanic, but instead of cars, I work on dies,” she said.

Amelia enjoys the variety of the job and the fact she’s always learning new skills.

“It makes your brain work a little more. I have fantastic mentors. They’re smart, and they’ve been doing this stuff for a long time, so they help me out quite a bit,” she said.

Apprenticeship expectations

She was the only new apprentice in the fall of 2023.

“I was surprised there was no one else, but it also means more one-on-one time with the instructor,” Amelia said.

The apprenticeship takes two years to complete. The classes at CCCTC are two days a week for three hours. Amelia was able to start working in tool and die over the summer and is grateful for the little bit of experience with machines before moving into the program.

MVMC offers a registered apprenticeship in machining for its members. There is an upfront cost, but most of the training is eligible for reimbursement by the state. Compco has been able to fill talent gaps for the last few years by participating. It’s only offered to employees in good standing who are willing to commit to the process.

For Amelia, that isn’t a problem. She’s a dedicated, loyal employee.

“I’ve been with the same company since high school. I don’t plan on going anywhere. The atmosphere is good, the people are good, and everyone seems to get along here,” she said.

Confidence, courage and conquering goals

As a woman in manufacturing, she says CQL has a good work culture and feels supported. Amelia is also confident in her abilities. She encourages other women not to feel intimidated by this kind of work.

“You’ve got to know the basics, but there are people to help you out with everything,” she said.

Her average day starts at 5 a.m. working on dies. If a press call comes through, she immediately attends to that.

“Production is the most important, so we stop what we’re doing to figure out what’s going on with the press. Sometimes it’s a changeover,” Amelia said.  

There are some awkward aspects of the job, too.

“I literally had to lie down on a die inside a press for a repair. You just never know what the day will bring, but we’re constantly moving and doing something different,” she said.

No matter what, she keeps the end goal in mind.

“I’ll learn more skills, get a NIMS certificate, and I want to be a pro at this kind of stuff. I want to know exactly what to do when problems arise. I also want to help future apprentices, too,” she said.

Amelia has long-term goals as well.

“I’d love to be an engineer – whether it’s welding or another type of engineer in manufacturing,” she said.

She’s also grateful for her family’s support on her career journey.

“Family is big for me, and they’re loving what I’m doing.”

For more information on MVMC’s registered apprenticeship program, contact Alex Hertzer.