Manderino touts apprenticeships at visit to Wendell August
By JOE PINCHOT Herald Staff Writer Joe Pinchot Jul 20, 2016
SPRINGFIELD TOWNSHIP – Len Youngo attended college but wasn’t sure what he wanted to do with his life.
He worked summers at Wendell August, then in Grove City, and asked owner Bill Knecht if there was a full-time job available for him.
“I always worked with my hands,” Youngo said.
Knecht gave Youngo some tools and a piece of metal and told him to return when he had made something. When he came back, Knecht hired him.
That was 35 years ago. Youngo is now one of the forge’s master craftsmen, designing and creating collectible and gift items from hand-hammered aluminum and pewter.
Could Will Knecht, the son of Bill Knecht and current chairman of the company, replace Youngo when he someday retires with someone new?
“Impossible,” said Will Knecht, wearing his trademark aluminum bow tie. “We’re really unique in what we do. We have to train everybody.”
Yet, master craftsmen have come and gone since the the company originated in 1923. New employees have come on board and become the master craftsmen who carry on the age-old tradition.
Those craftsmen emerged through an apprenticeship program; an informal but vital apprenticeship program, Knecht said.
“It lasts about five years to really get to some of the larger items, do some of the assembly work,” Knecht said.
State Department of Labor and Industry Secretary Kathy Manderino toured the forge, now located in Springfield Township, on Tuesday, highlighting workforce initiatives, including apprenticeships like Wendell August offers.
Currently, there are about 350,000 apprentices in Pennsylvania, she said.
“Pennsylvania has one of the strongest traditions of apprenticeships,” Manderino said.
Still, there is a “big skills gap,” particularly in manufacturing, she said. There is a disconnect between employers and the young people who are needed to replace retiring skilled workers…. Read more online at the Sharon Herald