With all the disruptive events and negative media reports bombarding us, added to the intensity of managing a manufacturing business, it's nice to pause and consider something positive and dependable. Every year since 1973, the National Tooling and Machining Association (NTMA) has sponsored a national competition to choose the top graduating student from the machining, tool and die making and mold making apprentice programs sponsored by local NTMA chapters.
The NTMA Rochester (New York) Chapter hosted the 32nd edition of this event on April 15-17, 2004. Sixteen regional winners from across the country converged on Monroe Community College's Advanced Technology Center to determine the "best of the best" in a 2-day contest involving projects in lathe, mill and precision grinding, as well as a comprehensive written exam.
Frank Roth IV of Bachman Machine Company in St. Louis, Missouri, prevailed as first- place champion. Second-place winner Erik Buskist of Palma Tool & Die Company in Lancaster, New York, and third-place finisher Robert Pretts of Remmele Engineeringin New Brighton, Minnesota, joined Mr. Roth at the podium.
Anyone who has participated in or observed one of these contests understands the amount of time, money, volunteers and other resources needed to make it happen. You only have to talk to one competitor to know the significance this recognition holds for the students.
Companies and other organizations donated materials, tools and prizes for the event. Charmilles Technologies' President Harry Moser supplied the grand prize of an EDM machine to the first-place company. Other donors included Industrial Press and H. Gerstner & Sons. The National Institute for Metalworking Skills also provided scholarships to pay for credential tests and online training courses. Check the NTMA Web site (www.ntma.org) for a list of donors .
Also, the people who have offered suggestions through the years have been helpful in improving the competition.
The awards banquet keynote speaker highlighted the economic and employment issues facing the Rochester region and the important role precision metalworking served in solving these problems.
Harry Moser followed this speech with a challenge to the apprentices to continue to learn and be proactive innovators in their careers. "The demands on our industry to incorporate new technology and improve product quality place a high value on individual problem-solving skills," he said. "Your real contribution lies in finding better ways of doing things."
Last year marked NTMA's 60th anniversary. The world of 1943 was a troubled place with an uncertain future when the first group of people decided to work together on common problems. One priority from the beginning was training our workforce. The competition is an annual celebration of that success. Find someone involved in training and tell him/her "thanks." If you are one of those involved people, let me be the first to congratulate you on your work.