The American Mold Builders Association (AMBA) has named Tom Barr, President of TK Mold & Engineering Inc., the Mold Builder of the Year, and CompuMold Tool & Design Inc. the Tooling Trailblazer of the Year. The awards were presented during AMBA’s annual conference on May 11 to 13 in Itasca, IL. Sponsored by Progressive Components, the awards include a $5,000 endowment to each winner for continuing education in mold building that the recipients can present to the educational institution of their choice.
Tom Barr has been a leader and mentor in the mold building industry for decades, said AMBA in its announcement. In his early years, he worked in the family business alongside his father and uncles. He earned his journeyman’s certificate in the early 1990s and went to work for a mold manufacturer, where he honed his skills and later purchased the business. After surviving the Great Recession in 2008 and 2009, he realized that, in order to continue to mitigate a maturing workforce, he would need to invest in developing the company’s next generation of employees, and he began exploring the design of an apprenticeship program customized for his facility. In 2017, Barr officially registered his apprenticeship program, which alongside improved quality, cultural change, and a better understanding of where employees would thrive, has generated significant returns for his business. Today, TK Mold & Engineering has 24 employees, many of whom are current or past apprentices. Whether sitting on advisory boards for Macomb Community College and Romeo High School or being an active participant on the AMBA Board of Directors, Barr’s passion for this industry continues to be demonstrated through his hands-on interactions with students and industry peers, said AMBA.
The Tooling Trailblazer of the Year Award recognizes the accomplishments of AMBA member companies that have had a notable impact in the area of education. CompuMold Tool & Design received this year’s award in recognition of its intimate involvement in the local school system, where company employees have demonstrated the range of jobs available in the industry and provided hands-on opportunities to students interested in the trade. The company has invested in industrial arts and fabrication classes at the local high school; established a Student Assistantship program for local Wisconsin high school students, allowing them to job shadow at the facility; and hired apprentices through the Department of Labor–certified Wisconsin Apprenticeship Program.
Based in Indianapolis, AMBA promotes the US mold building sector through workforce development initiatives, networking, benchmarking opportunities, and industry support.