Tom Barr, president of TK Mold & Engineering Inc., was named Mold Builder of the Year by the American Mold Builders Association, in part for starting an apprenticeship program at the family-owned company in Romeo, Mich.
Indianapolis-based AMBA also recognized Compumold Tool & Design Inc. with the Tooling Trailblazer of the Year Award at its annual conference, May 11-13 in Itasca, Ill.
The awards, sponsored by Progressive Components, include a $5,000 endowment to each winner to be presented to the educational institution of the recipient's choice.
Barr, a third-generation toolmaker, has been a leader and mentor in the mold building industry for decades, AMBA said in a news release.
"In his early years, he worked in the family business alongside his father and uncles, learning the craft and feeding his passion for the trade," AMBA said. "Proudly earning his journeyman's certificate in the early '90s, he went to work for a mold manufacturer, honed his skills and later purchased the business."
Those early years in the industry were spent at Barr's grandfather's shop, Corver Engineering in Detroit. He framed the journeyman's certificate earned in 1991 and signed by his father and grandfather with Corver listed as the sponsor.
Later, Barr was working at a mold shop when the owner moved the operation and offered to sell it to him. Barr and his wife, Krista, bought the business in 2003 and renamed it TK Mold & Engineering.
The couple's business survived the Great Recession and when orders picked up again they focused on honing the next generation of employees.
The Barrs developed an apprenticeship curriculum approved by the U.S. Department of Labor that requires a combination of 8,000 hours of on-the-job training and 42 credit hours in the classroom. The classes include applied trigonometry, drafting, electricity and electronics, computer numerically controlled machining and electric discharge machine programming and machining, fluid power, robotics and welding.
Many of TK Mold's 24 employees are current or past apprentices.
Tom Barr also sits on advisory boards for Macomb Community College and Romeo High School and he is an active participant on the AMBA Board of Directors.
Compumold of Phillips, Wis., was awarded the 2022 Trailblazer award for its impact in the area of education.
The company has intimate involvement in the local school system and is able to demonstrate the range of jobs available in the industry and provided hands-on opportunities to students interested in the trade.
"Whether through investment in the industrial arts and fabrication classes at the local high school, its offering of a student assistantship program ... or its recent hiring of apprentices through the Department of Labor-certified Wisconsin Apprenticeship Program, this facility has made it its mission to cultivate the next generation of mold builders in its community," the release stated.