Hernden completes first apprenticeship in decade at Reed City Tool

REED CITY — With an expectation of attending college after high school, it's becoming more rare to find a young individual looking toward a skilled trades career.

However, Morley resident Jon Hernden decided it was the route he was meant to take. Now, he's the first person in a decade at Reed City Tool to complete the four-year apprenticeship program and was given a certificate of completion during a special ceremony in front of his coworkers.

"It feels good," Hernden said about his accomplishment. "I decided not to go to college because I didn't want to rack up bills. It was either go here or go into the Marines, but I thought this was the better place to be."

Hernden, a home-schooled student, began attending the Mecosta Osceola Career Center in one of its engineering programs. He interviewed with and took an apprenticeship test from Reed City Tool after the company was given his name. He was hired as an employee as part of the apprenticeship program. Reed City Tool was able to enroll four others as apprentices due to a grant from the state called the Michigan Trade Skills Training Fund.

His tasks include building molds, running mills and lathes and operating gun drills.

"Jon's been able to do a variety of things, from the smaller mills to the larger mills," said Reed City Tool Plant Manager Bob Aspey. "The apprenticeship is a well-rounded program and Ferris State University also helped Jon with his bookwork. I think he is a very valuable asset."

Fellow Plant Manager Marty Mund agreed.

"I think Jon has done really well," he said. "He's adapted well and can do a lot of things."

It's increasingly difficult to find new individuals who desire to go into skilled trades and complete an apprenticeship because college is now the normal path to follow, Aspey said. Most high school graduates don't even think about alternative careers besides the military, and without high school counselors showcasing the skilled trades field to students who may not be interested in college, the industry will continue to struggle recruiting new workers.

Apsey believes Hernden will continue his success at Reed City Tool and eventually become a journeyman moldmaker, a leader on the plant floor, within a seven to 10-year time frame.

"I want to learn as much as I can as and stay here as long as I can," Hernden said. "I like what I do here and completing the apprenticeship inspires me to keep going. There's never a day when I don't learn something new here."