As the trade group passes the half-century point, it is reaching out to the next generations of professionals and leaders.
AMBA Board President Tom Barr, president of TK Molding & Engineering Inc. in Romeo, Mich., urges his colleagues to work with their community colleges. He is a third-generation mold maker who took a class at Macomb Community College to learn about new electronic discharge machine technology. He said it opened eyes and doors for him.
"I walked into the class and it was full. I took the last seat," Barr said. "I thought, 'Wait a minute. I didn't think anyone was doing this, but here I am in a roomful of young people.'"
He went back the next day and talked to the apprenticeship coordinator.
"All of a sudden we were involved," Barr said. "We're on their advisory board and we work with the local high school. You have to go find them. Young people are not going to knock on your door. Once you find them, if they like it, they tell their friends. That's been great for us."
Most of TK Molding & Engineering's 24 employees are under the age of 30, Barr said.
"We probably have one of the younger shops in the whole trade," he added.
Although the process of partnering with schools and colleges to attract young job applicants can take time, Barr said, "the beauty is they do embrace the automation part."
At a table stand nearby, Tom Stapleton, sales manager for 101-year-old Wisconsin Engraving Co., said the decades have brought many technological advancements in engraving, polishing and texturing services for the mold making and tool and die industries.
"Innovation has taken our company from a pantograph to a five-axis laser," Stapleton said, contrasting a manual method to make metal parts by tracing a pattern or template with the five-axis laser that can be rotated and tilted to produce complex parts efficiently and accurately.
"Every day there is a new level to achieve and it's usually customer-driven. Then we have to find a new way to reach it. Everyone wants more, and they want to pay less and they want it yesterday."