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Tony Saegert and Raul Robles

Tony Saegert and Raul Robles
FROM LAYOFFS TO PAYOFFS: Adult Students Retool Their Careers With The Precision Machine Technology Program
Tony Saegert and Raul Robles, Precision Machine Technology , Class of: 2011
Tony Saegert and Raul Robles took pride in their jobs at Republic Steel in Lorain.

But when the economy faltered in 2008, Robles and Saegert, like many Ohioans, found themselves unemployed and searching for work.

For most folks, being unemployed once is enough for a lifetime. But for Robles and Saegert, it was their second major layoff from Republic since both began working there in 2000.

"I thought, oh no, here we go again," said Robles, 54, a steel caster who is married with two children. "I couldn't support my family. I felt lousy and worried about what I was going to do once my unemployment benefits ran out."

Saegert lost the home he purchased in 2007, but said that he never gave up on his future.

"I was determined to get back on my feet and decided to go back to school," said Saegert, 32, a crane operator at Republic Steel.

A Republic Steel retraining effort led the men to the Lorain County JVS Adult Career Center, which prides itself in training adults who have been downsized; helping them reenter the workforce as quickly as possible.

Both enrolled in the Precision Machine Technology program, studying mathematics and blueprints while learning to use lathes, drill presses, milling machines and hand tools.

"I was looking for a program that would get me back to work sooner rather than later, a good-paying job with security and benefits," Robles said.

A JVS television commercial sparked Saegert's interest. And viewing the program details on the JVS website sealed the deal, the 1998 Admiral King grad said.

"I wanted a career, not just a job, something that was in high demand," Saegert said. "The machine tech program was ideal for me."

The nine-month Precision Machine Technology program also provided Robles and Saegert with on-the-job training at Thogus in Avon Lake, a national provider of plastic injection molding services.

The two men have been employed at Thogus since they completed their training at the Adult Career Center in 2011.

"Working and attending classes wasn't easy, but my instructors were very patient and thorough with all of us (older workers), making sure that we all understood something before moving on to the next assignment," said Saegert.

Saegert also learned basic CNC (Computer Numerical Control) language, which he uses daily as a mold technician at Thogus, setting molds and programming Thogus' 27 mold injection machines per client specifications.

On average, 18 of those 27 machines are always operating, Saegert said.

"It's a fast-paced environment, but I love it," said Saegert, who proudly boasts about surpassing Thogus' 2011 January and February quotas.

"We set goals each day, review sales and calculate how successful we are," he said. "We receive good feedback and we're rewarded for our efforts."

Robles is a set-up man for the plastic injection machines, which involves exchanging molds between machines once a job is completed.

"Some jobs need 20,000 pieces and some of these parts are very, very small," said Robles. "If that mold isn't set properly, the machine won't work. But my boss knows I'm dependable."

Both men also said that they are now more hopeful about their futures.

Said Robles: "It's funny. I drove by the JVS a few times but never thought that I'd be a student there. The Precision Machine Technology program changed my life. My future looks good. I'm happy."

Saegert said that he plans to become certified in plastic injection molding through college courses offered through Thogus.

"My job now is unbelievable, a complete 360 degree turn," Saegert said. "Managers are open to new ideas, discussing new ways to solve problems. They welcome my input, but there's still so much I have to learn."
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