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Story Date: August 28, 2006

JEFFERSON TWP - A Penn United Technology employee on Monday August 21, 2006 became the nation's first to earn his machinist certificate under the National Institute for Metalworking Skills competency based apprenticeship program.

Donald Stegner, 24, of Leechburg is apprentice who graduated in his area of specialization Monday from Penn United's Learning Institute for the Growth of High Technology. Stegner credited his mother, Barbara Rivi, and his grandmother, Annabelle Wolfe, for inspiring him to succeed. "You have to work hard to achieve what you want in life," he said they told him.
He was also grateful to Penn United. When the economy began its slide after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States, employers wanted experienced workers, he said. "This company was willing to hire someone with minimal skills," he said. "They train you to be the best machinist you can be."

"Think about that - this young man is the first in the nation to achieve this," said Stephen Mandes, executive director of the Fairfax, Va., based NIMS who attended Monday's graduation ceremony. Stegner is a CNC lathe machinist and has worked the second shift since he started working at Penn United in May 2004. He had transferred after beginning an apprenticeship at Northern Westmoreland Career and Technology Center. "As of today, I'm considered a journeyman," Stegner said after the ceremony. Under the old hours - based system, it might have taken four years to become a journeyman machinist. "I think he did it in three," Penn United Technology President Bill Jones said.

Speed, however, is not necessarily the objective of the new system.

Mandes said they are "raising the bar" by changing the way the nation's machinists are trained. "The competency - based system replaces tne traditional hours based method and has been three years in the making as a result of a partnership between NIMS and the United States Department of Labor," a NIMS news release said. "In the NIMS system, workers demonstrate their competencies by writting programs, setting up and operating machines and controlling quality to achieve industry agreed upon tolerances and specifications." Stegner had to earn 12 credientials in various areas to earn his certificate. Stegner also earned a first place finish in the National Tooling and Machining Association's regional competition and the NTMA's national CNC competition, said Chuck Guiste, the institute's training director. The manufacturing industry has been in a transition to the competency based training for about three years, said Anthony Swoope, administrator for the Department of Labor's Office of Apprentice Training.

Penn United was founded in 1971 by Carl Jones, Charles Barton and the late Robert Becker. After its humble beginnings in a garage at hthe Jone's family farm in Jefferson Township, the corporation now employs 715 people. It is a tool and die manufacturer, and also specializes in die design, precision grinding and machining, metal stamping, carbide products and training. On April 1, 2004, Carl Jones retired and named his son, Bill Jones, president. Carl Jones remains the company's chief executive officer.

.....Courtesy of The Butler Eagle.....

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