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Stretching the wire Featured

9:33am EDT July 22, 2002

Rick Silvaggio's company may only have three employees, but he still manages to have a significant impact on his community.

Five-year-old RML Tool and Die was recently recognized for "leadership and investment in Cleveland's workers and neighborhoods" by the Westside Industrial Retention and Expansion Network (WIRE-Net).

John Colm, executive director of WIRE-Net, says Silvaggio has been a consistent leader in efforts to improve the quality of education and training available to high school students. One of Silvaggio's biggest projects involves Max Hayes High School.

He volunteers on the advisory committee and talks to the students -- and those at nearby middle schools -- about life after high school.

"I am working with the teachers and the kids to broaden their horizons on what machine shop is all about," says Silvaggio.

In addition to working with children, he is involved in adult education programs, offering hands-on machining and talking about the trade. It's his way of revitalizing a trade that, over the past few decades, has embarked on a slow death march.

"Back in 1980, there were a couple articles written that said for every four die makers retiring, there was one to take their place," says Silvaggio. "So I'd like to get more kids involved in the machine trades."

Plus, he explains, he feels indebted to the Cleveland public schools for giving him the opportunity to enter the tool and die trade.

"I wanted to give back," he says.

In addition to helping young people understand life after school, Silvaggio's efforts have helped RML itself -- he has hired two high school pupils and one adult education pupil. But perhaps more important, his involvement helps the tool and die trade.

"The more students that graduate from the trade, it puts more tool and die makers and/or machinists out in the open market," he says. "Also, it gives me an opportunity to hire employees. I train them, they get to learn the trade,and I have a long-term employee." How to reach: RML Tool and Die, (216) 941-1615; WIRE-Net, (216) 631-7330

Courie Weston (cweston@sbnnet.com) is a reporter for SBN.